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School replaces detention with meditation

Picture yourself working at a school where a child begins to act disruptively. Traditional methods would typically involve assigning detention or suspension as a form of punishment. However, many of us can recall that detention often meant sitting in a bland room, bored and unengaged, struggling to avoid breaking the silence by talking to other students or reading a book. In this setup, reflecting on our actions was often sidelined, leaving us feeling like it was an ineffectual and unjust process.

A new approach

Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore has taken a different approach when dealing with disruptive students. Instead of resorting to punishment, they have introduced a Mindful Moment Room. This room stands in stark contrast to the typical windowless detention spaces. The Mindful Moment Room is furnished with warm lighting, decorations, and comfortable purple cushions. Students who exhibit disruptive behavior are encouraged to spend time in this room, engaging in activities such as deep breathing or meditation to help them regain composure and refocus. They are also encouraged to discuss what happened and how they feel.

Meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, has been practiced in various forms for thousands of years. Recent scientific studies have delved into the impact of meditation on both the mind and body, revealing promising results. For instance, research suggests that mindfulness meditation can enhance the mental resilience of soldiers, as well as improve memory, attention span, and focus.

While individual studies should be interpreted with some caution, the collective body of research highlights the potential benefits of meditation. Mindfulness, in particular, has become an integral component of several successful psychotherapies.

Small part of a bigger plan

At Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, the Mindful Moment Room is just one aspect of their holistic approach to education. The room is a product of their collaboration with the Holistic Life Foundation, a local nonprofit that operates several programs. One of their long-standing initiatives is Holistic Me, an after-school program where children from pre-K through fifth grade practice mindfulness and yoga.

The impact of this approach is evident, with students even bringing mindfulness practices into their homes. Parents have reported that their children are teaching them breathing techniques to manage stress. The Holistic Life Foundation program also involves mentoring, tutoring, environmental education, and community engagement. Students participate in activities like cleaning local parks, creating gardens, visiting farms, and even co-teaching yoga sessions.

This holistic approach is not limited to a single school; numerous educational institutions are adopting similar practices with remarkable results. In the U.K., the Mindfulness in Schools Project teaches adults how to establish similar programs, while nonprofits like Mindful Schools work toward implementing these initiatives in the United States.

Moreover, these schools have witnessed tangible benefits. Robert W. Coleman Elementary reported zero suspensions in the past year and the current year. Patterson Park High School, which also implements mindfulness programs, saw a decline in suspension rates and an increase in attendance. While it’s challenging to attribute these outcomes solely to mindfulness practices, the impact is undoubtedly remarkable.

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