3.19.18: Meditation vs. Detention in Schools
Flashfit is founded on the principle that movement is a fundamental part of kids’ educations. Simple acts of motion – one minute at a time – provide children with a “brain break.” This helps them to focus their energy and retain more of what they study in class. However, settling in to meditate can be equally beneficial. And many schools are testing out this theory by implementing in-school meditation programs.
Mindfulness meditation morphed from a spiritual to a self-help practice, one that businesses use to make workers more productive and boost profits. In recent years, schools have increasingly turned to mindfulness as well, in order to improve children’s behavior and ability to pay attention.
One pilot project, created by the Holistic Life Foundation – Holistic Me – hosts 120 male and female students in a program that runs in select Baltimore schools every afternoon. It involves yoga, breathing exercises and meditative activities. Disruptive students are brought to the Mindful Moment Room for breathing practices and discussion with a counselor. They are also instructed on how to manage their emotions. The program reports an incredible result: zero suspensions in the last year.
Brothers Atman and Ali Smith and friend Andres Gonzalez started the nonprofit in 2001 in their hometown of Baltimore. Their goal was to provide kids from a low-income and high-crime-rate neighborhood with the tools to cope with stress and anger. Over the past 15 years, students of the program have graduated and transitioned into mentor roles—former students now make up 50 percent of its workforce.
The Baltimore schools are not the only ones that have tried incorporating meditative practices. California’s Mindful Schools has provided training in 48 states and 43 countries both online and in person since 2010. In 2015, Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School in Queens, New York, implemented Transcendental Meditation in the classroom through the David Lynch Foundation.
New York City’s public schools have also taken steps toward incorporating new teaching styles into the classroom with the 2014 Department of Education initiative Move-to-Improve, which lists yoga and stretching as two of many physical activities in the curriculum. While there have been a few trailblazers in the development of meditative practices in schools, some professionals are hesitant to believe these can have the same, standard success rate at each institution.
Not only does mindfulness work during busy days, it can also help sleep. Nestmaven – a website dedicated to all aspects of sleep, sleep disorders and sleep hygiene – recently put together an in-depth resource about how children (and adults) can use mindfulness to improve sleep quality.
Mindfulness is a secularized approach to Buddhist meditation in which practitioners learn to observe their thoughts and feelings and achieve more control over them. In order to teach children mindfulness, teachers will instruct their classroom to spend a short amount of time sitting quietly and observing their breath and the pitter-patter of their minds. Later, the children might share these observations with their classmates. Many mindfulness curriculums also include lessons on cultivating gratitude and appreciation of one’s senses. One popular method involves giving children two raisins and encouraging them to observe the differences between them—how they feel, smell, sound, and, eventually, taste.
Many kids who are dealing with high-stress situations or behavioral differences at home may come to school on high alert. Their body’s alarm system is switched on. So they may be primed for fight or flight and not able to sit calmly and pay attention. Giving these kids the chance to breathe deeply, to focus their attention on themselves rather than what’s going on externally, can be an effective way to combat the stress, improve attention and usher in calm.
Flashfit is an easy, fun-to-use app providing aerobic and strength-building exercises in one-minute bursts. Your school can build teams and groups, compete and gamify to increase student engagement and reward participation. No special equipment needed – kids can move their bodies anywhere. #jointhemob
Newsweek, CNN, Slate, Nestmaven