The Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore has been doing something differently when disruptive students act out — offering meditation, mindfulness and yoga classes — and they have the science to back them up.
Science-backed holistic approach producing great results in elementary school pupils
The Holistic Life Foundation (HLF) is a Baltimore-based nonprofit organisation committed to nurturing the wellness of children and adults in underserved communities. Through a comprehensive approach which helps children develop their inner lives through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care, HLF demonstrates deep commitment to learning, community, and stewardship of the environment. HLF is also committed to developing high-quality evidence-based programs and curriculum to improve community well-being.
The Mindful Moment Room
Instead of punishing disruptive children or sending them to the principal’s office, the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, in Baltimore, Maryland, has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead.
The space looks nothing like a standard featureless detention room. Rather, it is filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving children are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.
Meditation and mindfulness are pretty interesting, scientifically.
Mindful meditation has been around in some form or another for thousands of years. Recently, though, science has started looking at its effects on our minds and bodies, and it’s finding some interesting effects.
One study, for example, suggested that mindful meditation could give practicing soldiers a kind of mental armor against disruptive emotions, and it can improve memory too. Another suggested mindful meditation could improve a person’s attention span and focus.
Individual studies should be taken with a grain of salt (results don’t always carry in every single situation), but overall, science is starting to build up a really interesting picture of how awesome meditation can be. Mindfulness in particular has even become part of certain fairly successful psychotherapies.
Back at the school, the Mindful Moment Room isn’t the only way Robert W. Coleman Elementary has been encouraging its students.
The meditation room was created as a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a local nonprofit that runs other programs as well. For more than 10 years the foundation has been offering the after-school program Holistic Me, where children from pre-K through the fifth grade practice mindfulness exercises and yoga.
"It’s amazing," Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman told James Gaines, for Upworthy . "You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do."
There was a Christmas party, for example, where the children knew they were going to get presents but were still expected to do meditation first.
"As a little kid, that’s got to be hard to sit down and meditate when you know you’re about to get a bag of gifts, and they did it! It was beautiful, we were all smiling at each other watching them," said Philips.
The program also helps mentor and tutor the children, and teach them about the environment
The children also help clean up local parks, build gardens, and visit nearby farms. Philips said they even teach kids to be co-teachers, letting them run the yoga sessions.
This isn’t just happening at one school, either. Lots of schools are trying this kind of holistic thinking, and it’s producing incredible results.
In the UK, for example, the Mindfulness in Schools Project is teaching adults how to set up programs. Mindful Schools, another nonprofit, is helping to set up similar programs in the United States.Oh, and by the way, the schools are seeing a tangible benefit from this program, too.
Philips said that at Robert W. Coleman Elementary, there have been exactly zero suspensions last year and so far this year. Meanwhile, nearby Patterson Park High School, which also uses the mindfulness programs, said suspension rates dropped and attendance increased as well.
Is that wholly from the mindfulness practices? It’s impossible to say, but those are pretty remarkable numbers, all the same.
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