CAHELP eNews - December 7, 2017

a child's mind in a state of complete awareness through deep concentration and attention

Teaching Mindfulness in the Classroom

Research shows us that mindfulness CAN have beneficial effects for the students who enter today's classrooms and need to feel comfortable and safe to learn.

While the utilization of mindfulness-based strategies to improve the quality of life of adults has been widely evidenced in the last few years, its application at the school level is less known. Nevertheless, science tells us that these strategies, which range from focusing techniques to yoga and similar techniques, can be effective for our students. In the classroom, mindfulness-based strategies are not religious strategies, but rather pedagogical techniques for learning through deepening concentration and attention. Specific areas of focus include helping students improve their attention and managing their behavior, increasing their attendance and grades, and enhancing their self-regulation skills. Because today's students operate in an uncertain world and many face trauma (A study from John Hopkins suggests that as many as a quarter of American adolescents suffer from a mental health disorder), it becomes imperative to explore the implementation of mindfulness strategies to the school setting.

Many states have started to implement mindfulness-based strategies and have reached thousands of students across the country. Some of the most popular programs include MindUp (url: www.mindup.org), and Mindful Schools (url: http://www.mindfulschools.org/). With the heavy emphasis on common core standards and other federal and state mandates, how can we implement yet another program for our students? While some curricula rely on the need to have separate lessons, the easiest and more naturalistic way is to integrate simple strategies into the school day. For example, in Mindful Eating, students become aware of their surroundings, smells, textures, tastes etc. to bring a focus on the present moment. School personnel can facilitate by posing simple questions such as, "What do you like about the food you are eating right now?" and "Why did you choose these foods for your lunch today?" When applying these principles to the core content, consider using repetitive songs to teach math facts or use specific sounds to prompt students to it is time to transition. These strategies increase predictability, decrease stress, and increase positive behavior. Moreover, basic coping skills techniques, such as deep breathing, can be easily taught and implemented in the classroom without taking away from teaching core content.

While there is an urgency to find solutions to the increasing violence in schools, educators need to focus on data-supported evidence when considering utilizing such programs with our students. For more information, see list of mindful schools resources (url: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=mindfulness+in+schools&btnG).