It’s common practice for schools to discipline unruly students by placing them in timeout or sending them to detention. But a Baltimore elementary school is taking a different approach by offering students a “mindful” alternative: meditation.
Rather than force disruptive students into mind-numbing, boring detention halls, students at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School are sent to the Mindful Moment Room instead.
According to Upworthy, kids who misbehave are encouraged to sit in the room — complete with lamps, decorations and plush purple pillows — and practice deep breathing or mindful meditation. The techniques are used as a way to help students calm down and re-center their thoughts. Kids are also encouraged to talk through the misbehavior that landed them in the meditation room.
The meditation space at Robert W. Coleman Elementary was created in partnership with Baltimore-based nonprofit Holistic Life Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping “children develop their inner lives through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care.” The local foundation also launched an after-school program called Holistic Me where pre-K through 5th-grade students learn a combination of yoga, meditation, centering and breath work exercises.
“It’s amazing,” said Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman. “You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do.”
The HLF offers its mindful meditation programs to students at other schools around Baltimore, too. It seems as though these schools and others are finally catching on to the psychological benefits of the holistic approach. Not to mention, the practice of mindful meditation has worked wonders on student behavior as well. For instance, Phillips told Upworthy that Robert W. Coleman hasn’t had a single suspension — last year or this year — since it started its mindful meditation program.
But the advantages of mindfulness don’t stop there. A study by the Erikson Institute sought to determine whether “mindfulness” activities boosted academic achievement in young children from minority, low-income households. The study examined 2,000 Chicago Public School students and found that setting time aside for mindfulness actually increased the amount of time left for classroom instruction. Teachers reported their students regaining focus quickly during transitions between subjects and calming down sooner after temper tantrums.
“This makes classrooms more efficient, but it also helps with an even bigger goal: Helping children grow up to be healthy adults,” Amanda Moreno, assistant professor of early childhood development at the institute.
Robert W. Coleman isn’t the only school reaping the benefits of mindful meditation. Seth Brown, an 8th grade teacher at Wayzata West Middle School in Minnesota, said he begins and ends each of his classes with meditation to help his students stay calm and focused.
“[My students] are not all on the same page, so instead of disrupting everyone else, they can use the mindfulness on their own to start breathing and maybe not burst out or pick on the kid next to them, because that’s what teenagers do.”
Researchers are still digging into the positive effects of mindful meditation, but the practice has definitely proved itself useful in school classrooms.