meditation and education

San Francisco schools transformed by the power of meditation

NBC News: Silence isn’t something people usually associate with middle school, but twice a day the halls of Visitacion Valley School in San Francisco fall quiet as the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students meditate for fifteen minutes.

And school administrators tell NBC News that the violence outside of the school, which is situated in one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods, was spilling into the school and affecting the students’ demeanor.

“The kids see guns on a daily basis,” the school’s athletic director, Barry O’Driscoll said, adding, “there would be fights …

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Mindfulness program reveals positive results

wildmind meditation newsSarah Duggan, EducationHQ: Using mindfulness in the classroom improves students’ self-control, attentiveness and respect for each other, researchers have discovered.

The findings come from the Mental Health Foundation’s (MHF) Mindfulness in Schools programme, which saw six schools take part in an eight-week trial requiring teachers to implement 20-minute mindfulness sessions into their lessons.

Throughout the trial teachers documented any progress in a journal and later completed an extensive survey, the results of which were examined by researchers from Auckland University and the Auckland University of Technology.

Teck Wee, a primary teacher at Te Papapa School who participated in the trial, reported that he …

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Restive lads opt for meditation over detention

wildmind meditation newsAlexandra Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald: Teenage boys are not known for deep contemplation, but if if gets them out of detention then it seems meditation can be very appealing.

At Balgowlah Boys, a comprehensive public school on the northern beaches, students can now swap an afternoon detention for meditation.

In a darkened classroom last week, about 20 barefooted boys spent an hour breathing, relaxing and clearing their minds. And while they may have been sceptical before their first class, the boys who rolled out of bed for the early-morning class were converts.

For Kobe Edwards, the meditation class was a ticket out of 90 …

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Social and emotional skills for schools

wildmind meditation newsRavi Pradhan, República: In the past decade, a very exciting new approach has started to attract the attention of educators and parents in the US. An umbrella term to describe these approaches is “social and emotional learning” or SEL.

In fact, the US Federal Government and private foundations have funded several pilot grants all over the country.

SEL is seen as a relatively low-cost, secular, science-based approach that generates the following kinds of results across age, sex, income levels, and ethnic backgrounds in schools:

  • Reduces stress, anxiety, negative behavior, and bullying.
  • Increases calmness, relaxation, self-awareness, self-control, and empathy.
  • Improves focus, attention and self-awareness …

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‘Mindfulness’ therapy adopted by stressed Britons

wildmind meditation newsSarah Knapton, The Telegraph: Financial firms in the City of London are recommending mindfulness to stressed employees while schools are increasingly adopting the practice to help children focus.

‘Mindfulness’ therapy is increasingly being adopted by stressed Britons as NHS figures show record numbers of people embracing ancient Buddhist meditation.

The technique is designed to focus the mind on sights, sounds and physical sensations while trying to reduce “brain chatter” and promote clarity of thought.

It is so popular that many of the large financial firms in the City of London are recommending it to stressed financiers while schools are increasingly adopting the practice …

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Primary school uses meditation to boost concentration

wildmind meditation newsCotswold Journal: A primary school in the Cotswolds is using a special technique to boost children’s concentration and wellbeing.

Shipston Primary School has introduced Mindfulness, which is increasingly being used in the workplace, the armed forces and most recently, in education.

The meditation practice, which helps children to focus and lower stress levels, was recently shown to improve pupils’ school performance in a study carried out by scientists at the University of Exeter, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the Mindfulness in Schools Programme.

Since January, 10 and 11-year-olds at the school have been taking part in a nine-week Mindfulness programme …

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Mindful meditation at school makes kids go ommm

wildmind meditation news

Mary MacVean, Los Angles Times: Hundreds of schools in California alone have mindful meditation programs, and educators see benefits. Mindfulness is said to help with focus, attention, calming the emotions and school performance.

Erica Eihl speaks in a voice that her kindergartners can hear only if they are as quiet as the church mice in children’s storybooks.

And with a couple of squirrelly exceptions, they stay that quiet for 15 or 20 minutes — a near eternity — as Eihl guides them to use all their senses to consider a piece of apple, with directions such as, “Looking at the apple, look on the outside …

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Could meditation help Long Island students?

wildmind meditation news

Anne Michaud, Long Island Newsday: A woman I had just met was so upset that she began to confide in me about her high school daughter. The girl had burst into tears when she got a 92 on a test, and she was concerned that if she didn’t attend a summer study program, she wouldn’t be able to compete with her peers for college admission.

“Why are kids so anxious now?” the mom asked. “Was life such a treadmill when we were young?”

This family lives in one of Long Island’s better public school districts — with plenty of academic pressure — but these questions are being raised all around. A poll released in December — conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health — said that 40 percent of parents believe their high school kids are stressed over school.

Admirably, some schools are trying what could be a stress antidote: mindfulness and meditation.

At Centennial High School, south of Baltimore, physics teacher and meditation instructor Stan Eisenstein is offering a 10-week course in mindfulness to 30 teens after school. The nonreligious course is based on Buddhist principles and shows students how to tune in to their bodily sensations and breath, as well as their thoughts and emotions. According to a story in The Baltimore Sun last month, Eisenstein calls these skills “a first-aid kit” for stress.

His course has become so popular that …

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Mindfulness in college admissions wins support of teachers, administrators, students, parents

PRWEB: Strolling through UC Berkeley’s campus on a warm, cloudless day, Alex Thaler points to a verdant expanse of grass near Morrison Hall, where the university’s music department is located. “That glade was sort of like my Walden Pond,” he says, smiling. “As an undergraduate student I spent many hours sitting near that oak tree, letting the sounds from Morrison wash over me.”

In his practice as an admissions consultant – someone who guides students through the college and graduate school application process – Mr. Thaler is as likely to be reflecting on present-moment awareness as he is to be discussing grade point…

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“Room to Breathe” — A documentary film about mindfulness in a troubled middle school

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Room to Breathe documentary

Room to Breathe is a documentary about teaching mindfulness to students of the troubled Marina Middle School in San Francisco, which tops its district for disciplinary suspensions, and has overcrowded classrooms creating an environment in which it’s almost impossible for learning to take place. As assistant principal Anthony Braxton explains near the opening of the film, a significant number of students at Marina “don’t do school” — they don’t see school as being for them.

In the class of Seventh Grade teacher Tom Ehnle, we see kids who are unable to stay on task or to pay attention. They seem to be in a constant state of fidgeting, wrestling with each other, carrying on side-conversations, and throwing objects around the room. One time we see one student pursuing another around — and outside of — the classroom while the teacher looks on helplessly. There’s no way of knowing if this is a constant state of affairs, whether we’re seeing edited highlights of bad behavior, or whether the kids were acting up for the camera, but it’s clear that there are behavior issues going on that are serious enough to make learning all but impossible. It seems that a minority of students in the class are unable to focus, and drag the entire class into a state of mayhem.

As Ling Busche, a seventh Grade counselor at the school points out, the students are consumed by the drama of Facebook and the school yard, and the classroom is simply another place to continue those dramas. Some of the drama and disruption goes well beyond the normal “who is going out with whom.” One student, Omar, has lost a brother and a friend to gun violence. We learn such details — and more about the stressful circumstances of the students — as we cut from the classroom to students’ family lives, in particular focusing on four kids — Omar, Lesly, Jacqueline, and Gerardo.

With suspensions, punishments, and other attempts to modify behavior failing, it’s clearly time to try something new at Marina Middle School. So when a therapist suggested going into the classroom to teach meditative strategies to reduce conflict and improve focus, the school jumped at the opportunity.

Megan Cowan, co-founder of an organization called Mindful Schools, arrives in Ehnle’s class to lead 15 brief (20 to 30 minute) sessions of mindfulness. The kids are at first skeptical, and are unable or unwilling to sit still even for a two minute exercise of “mindful posture.”

But mindfulness is just what these students need. As Cowan explains, mindfulness gives impulse control, so that we have more choice over our actions. These students are not, on the whole, able to control themselves at all.

Early on, Cowan is understandably frustrated. She describes her encounter with the students as being like hitting a brick wall. The defiance is deliberate, the disruption too great, the class size (35!) too large. In one incident which is on the trailer but not in the version of the film I saw, she angrily orders a disruptive student from the classroom. She wants to reach the students, but can’t, and doesn’t know where to go next. Even though Mindful Schools’ policy is to keep even the most disruptive kids in the class, since those are the ones who most need mindfulness, it’s clearly not working in this case, and four particularly disruptive students are removed. (It’s not clear what they end up doing instead.)

Almost immediately, it seems, things change in the classroom, although it’s at this point that Cowan does two things: she has the kids take turns leading mindfulness, and she introduces a simple form of self-metta practice (developing lovingkindness for oneself) in the form of repeating phrases like, “I wish for myself to be happy.” I get the sense that this is the first time the kids have thought in this way.

Cowan teaches the students that they are their minds are the biggest influence in their own lives, bringing to mind the Dhammapada verses,

Whatever harm an enemy may do to an enemy, or a hater to a hater, an ill-directed mind inflicts on oneself a greater harm.

Neither mother, father, nor any other relative can do one greater good than one’s own well-directed mind.

It’s inspiring to see the students settle down. They become more still during meditation sessions. They spontaneously start to practice mindfulness outside of the classroom. “We were outside in the yard, and then some girl just made me mad. I just felt like pulling her hair out and dropping to the floor and choke her. I used mindfulness to calm down and not do nothing. I’m, like, ‘no’ because there’s consequences for that,” one student recounts.

“You have a tool now that you can use for the rest of your life” is the final message Cowan leaves the class with.

Room to Breathe is an inspiring documentary. It’s all too easy to write off kids like Omar, Lesly, Jacqueline, and Gerardo. It’s all too easy to brand them as being inherently unable to learn or incapable of controlling themselves. It’s all too easy to label kids like this as “bad.” But what they are is kids who have never learned the tools that allow of self-control and impulse control. They have no real freedom.

I can’t help thinking, if mindfulness can work in this school, it can work anywhere.

Room to Breathe was published on September 7, 2012. It is available on DVD from The Video Project, and you can read more about the film at Screening packages are available for people who want to host their own screenings of Room to Breathe, both to raise awareness about the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom and to begin brainstorming ways to implement mindfulness programs.

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