Mindfulness in Schools

What does “mindfulness” mean to you and your family?


Nomura students practice “child’s pose” during a Yoga session.

With its roots in Buddhist teachings as one of seven factors of enlightenment, secular mindfulness is gaining real traction as a therapeutic tool to combat the stresses of our busy daily lives. Corporations like Nike, General Mills and Target encourage their employees to meditate at work. Even the Marine Corps uses meditation and other mindfulness techniques to assist with soldiers’ mental performance. The program is called “Mind Fitness Training”.

Whatever you call it, these programs are gaining acceptance as an effective form of improving work performance, increasing contentedness, and boosting emotional intelligence. The next place to introduce mindfulness? Schools.

School districts across the country and in Britain are seeing major benefits from incorporating mindfulness techniques into students’ daily routines. A study in Britain showed that students participating in the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) had significant decreases in depression at the end of the program compared to non-participants. Self control, classroom participation, respect for others, and self-esteem all appear to improve with regular mindfulness practice.

Drops in detentions, absenteeism and suspensions have also been reported. According to a case study of participants in the Mindful Life Project at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, CA, which serves a low-income population, “18 kids accounted for 82 percent of the suspensions. At the beginning of their mindfulness training those kids were suspended 62 times in the first trimester. After three trimesters of mindfulness practice, that rate had dropped to 20.” Principal LeDonna Williams says the school has seen a culture shift since the program started this year.

The UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center studies the science behind mindfulness. Their work finds that maintaining a mindfulness practice increases brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, where we perform abstract thinking like planning and decision making. For children, this increase in functioning can lead to fewer fights with others and better ‘reception’ in the learning environment.

Teacher Jean-Gabrielle Larochette of Coronado Elementary School in Richmond, CA founded the Mindful Life Project to share the techniques he used to reduce his own stress. As he puts it, “We tell kids be quiet, calm yourself down, be still. We tell them all these things they need in the classroom, but we’re not teaching them how to do that.”

Do you have a mindfulness practice with your children?


Student and teacher work toward Balance during a Yoga session at Nomura.


For further reading, we recommend:

New York Times, “Mindfulness: Getting Its Share of Attention”, 11/3/2013

The Atlantic, “Should Schools Teach Children to Meditate?”, 1/27/2014

KQED, “Low-Income Schools See Big Benefits in Teaching Mindfulness”, 1/17/2014

UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, “Research Roundup: Mindfulness in Schools”, 10/10/2013