CAHELP eNews - October 13, 2017

Elementary students meditating in the classroom

Can You Use Mindfulness in the Classroom?

Research shows us that mindfulness can have beneficial effects on students. 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 meditation to yoga and similar techniques, can be effective for our students. Areas of focus have included helping students improve their attention and managing their behavior, increasing their attendance and grades, and enhancing their self-regulation skills, among many others. 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 now started to implement mindfulness-based strategies and have reached hundreds of 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 ways are to integrate simple strategies to 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 key but 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?" Or, applying these principles to the core content, considering using repetitive songs to learn math facts or using specific sounds to prompt students to indicate it is time for transition, are all ways that routine and predictability can decrease our level of stress and increase positive behavior within our classrooms. Moreover, basic coping skills techniques such as deep breathing can be easily taught and implemented at the classroom level without taking away from other endeavors.

While the body of scientific research continues to grow in the area of mindfulness, care needs to be exercised to ensure that solid evidence is present when applying these principles to the school setting. While there is an urgency to find solutions to the increasing violence in schools, we need to focus on data-supported evidence when considering utilizing such programs with our students. Click Mindfulness in Schools to view a list of resources.