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How One School Transformed Student Behavior by Replacing Detention with Mindfulness

SHOULD MEDITATION REPLACE DETENTION_ SCHOOL IMAGE 1

How One School Transformed Student Behavior by Replacing Detention with Mindfulness

“Meditation calms me down and stuff.”

– 4th-grade girl, Holistic Me program

Is meditation more effective than detention?

That’s the question now posed to schools all across the U.S. as a result of the work by the Holistic Life Foundation.

In 2001, brothers Ali and Atman Smith, along with friend Andres Gonzalez, returned home from college to start the foundation, an after-school program founded with the purpose of bringing the benefits of yoga and mindfulness to their Baltimore, Maryland neighborhood.

But what started as a small after-school program with 20 boys from local Baltimore grade schools (mistaken in the beginning by much of the neighborhood as a gang startup) has now blossomed into a national movement.

And it’s made parents and educators everywhere question the value of traditional disciplinary measures along with the power of mindfulness as a potential replacement.

Holistic Me brings mindfulness to Baltimore’s youth to surprising results

Founded as the Holistic Life Foundation’s flagship program in 2002, Holistic Me is an after-school program designed to teach yoga, mindfulness, and related meditation and breathing techniques to Baltimore’s youth.

Since beginning at Baltimore’s Windsor Hill Elementary seventeen years ago, the program has expanded far beyond Baltimore, now serving surrounding Maryland communities in:

  • Boston
  • Charlottesville
  • Minneapolis
  • Louisville
  • Somerset County
  • Asheville, and
  • Madison
The Holistic Life Foundation now serves over 10,000 children just in the Baltimore area, with the Holistic Me program serving 160 pre-K to 5th-grade students every school day:

HOLISTIC LIFE FOUNDATION MINDFULNESS PROGRAM
Source: Holistic Life Foundation

Mindfulness as a replacement for detention?

Arguably the most remarkable result of the Holistic Me program has been the transformation in student behavior.

With some success from the program under its belt, Robert W Coleman Elementary School decided to create a ‘Mindful Moment Room’ where students would be instructed to practice mindful breathing during the duration of their stay in the room, as opposed to traditional detention.

The results have been nothing less than extraordinary, with the school’s Mindful Moment Room in combination with the Holistic Me program itself resulting in 0 suspensions to date since it began.

SHOULD MEDITATION REPLACE DETENTION SCHOOL IMAGE
Source: Holistic Life Foundation

Mindfulness in the classroom (for teachers and students)

The remarkable story of student transformation through the Holistic Life Foundation at Robert W Coleman Elementary School is incredible in itself.

However, the benefit of mindfulness in the classroom is well-documented.

Studies on mindfulness in the classroom have shown that regular practice helps improve student focus, improve emotion regulation, and reduce stress levels among other benefits.

But that’s just the beginning. Studies have also shown that teachers receive similar benefits when they adopt the practice themselves, such as reduced stress, reduced chance of burnout, and greater efficacy.

Should mindfulness replace detention?

So, should mindfulness replace detention? Should schools everywhere have their own Mindful Moment Room?

That’s a question that educators need to answer for themselves.

The topic of mindfulness at school, from questions to how it’s implemented to the way it’s taught, are still in question.

But there’s no mistake that mindfulness and similar meditative practices are of huge benefit to both students and educators– and the sky is the limit for programs like Holistic Me.

“When I first started I was kinda bad… now the breathing has calmed me down.”

– 7th-grade boy, Holistic Me program

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