Revisiting the use of traditionally punitive disciplinary environments in public schools is a growing development and one supported by a wide body of research. Please see a selection of research papers, articles and resources cited at the end of this blog post for more information. The need to include greater mindfulness curriculum and interventions to support middle school students who struggle with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges is widely supported by the body of academic literature in the fields of education, psychology and law (Felver, 2013; Schonert-Reichl & Lawlor, 2017; Ward, 2010; Winkler et al., 2017). Additionally, recent newspaper articles published in the New York Times, US News and World Reports and Newsweek highlight successful implementations of Mindful Moment Rooms and supporting curriculum in public school. As schools and administrators rethink zero tolerance policies regarding student discipline, the need to support adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence is apparent.
Mr. Mark Barnes, a columnist for HackLearnering.org describes the environment of mindful moment rooms, “The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it’s filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids 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.”
The Bedford Education Foundation has generously funded a grant to create an environment more conducive for our early adolescent students as they engage in deep reflective thought, especially when confronted with, and often overcome by, social and emotional stress. Recently our school guidance counselors and middle school administrators have witnessed a rise in adolescent anxiety, stress, and emotional disregulation in our students, which at times can manifest itself through school avoidance and increased disciplinary infractions to the student code of conduct. Moreover, our middle school learners are also now faced with social media based challenges and the need to develop pro-social coping strategies is more apparent than ever. One component of the grant funded by the Bedford Education Foundation is to provide faculty, student and parent mindfulness training.
Minding Your Mind has defined the term ‘mindfulness’ as follows and also outlined health benefits of implementing mindfulness techniques, "Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what is happening around us, moment to moment. Mindfulness helps children by teaching them how to manage their emotions, decrease stress and anxiety, and redirect their energy in a positive way. Individuals who practice mindfulness often find it helps facilitate focus and attention."
A growing body of research involving neurosciences shows many benefits of mindfulness:
- better focus and concentration
- increased sense of calm
- decreased stress and anxiety
- enhanced physical and mental health
- improved impulse control
- increased emotional regulation
- enhanced empathy and understanding of others
- development of natural conflict resolution skills (Minding Your Mind)
Marcy Beinert, a guidance counselor at our middle school, describes the impact of interactive-game based mindfulness curriculum with 6th graders, "for those students who might be initially opposed to meditation and guided deep reflective thought, when I say...let's play a game, they immediately agree." These mindfulness computer games use bio-feedback to monitor heart rate and breathing techniques.
Specifically Ms. Beinert has used emWave software with middle school students to release stress and to become more aware of the mind-body connection. The emWave is a portable biofeedback device to help you calm down, combat stress, or fight panic attacks. While students play mindfulness games, the emWave software tracks and monitors bio-feedback markers.
The use of bio-feedback software was also described in a Wired articled titled, 'Help Manage Stress and Anxiety with EmWave'.
Felver, J. C., Doerner, E., Jones, J., Kaye, N. C., & Merrell, K. W. (2013). Mindfulness in school psychology: applications for intervention and professional practice. Psychology in the Schools, 50(6), 531-547.
Gaines, James “This School Replaced Detention with Meditation: The Results are Stunning”. Upworthy. Published online on September 22nd, 2016. http://www.upworthy.com/this-school-replaced-detention-with-meditation-the-results-are-stunning
Gelles, David. “Mindfulness for Children”. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/mindfulness-for-children
Haupt, Angela “Mindfulness in Schools: When Meditation Replaced Detention”. US News and World Reports. Published online on December 8th, 2016. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/2016-12-08/mindfulness-in-schools-when-meditation-replaces-detention
Khorsandi, Yasaman “The Movement of Meditation Replacing Detention in Schools”. Newsweek. published online on September 30th 2016. http://www.newsweek.com/education-meditation-after-school-program-holistic-life-504747
Minding Your Mind. “Introduction to Mindfulness: Planting Seeds of Well-Being”. http://mindingyourmind.org/what-we-do/mental-health-education-program/mindfulness/
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre-and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1(3), 137-151.
Ward, S. F. (2014). Less than zero: Schools are rethinking zero tolerance policies and questioning whether the discipline is really effective. American Bar Association Journal, 100, 55.
Winkler, J. L., Walsh, M. E., de Blois, M., Maré, J., & Carvajal, S. C. (2017). Kind discipline: Developing a conceptual model of a promising school discipline approach. Evaluation and Program Planning, 62, 15-24.