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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

Should we replace detention with mindfulness?

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. It started as an after-school program 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.

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

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

Founded as the HLF’s flagship program in 2002, Holistic Me is an after-school program designed to teach yoga, mindfulness, and other well-being practices to Baltimore’s youth.

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

  • Boston
  • Charlottesville
  • Minneapolis
  • Louisville
  • Somerset County
  • Asheville, and
  • Madison
The foundation now helps an astounding 10,000 children in the Baltimore area alone, 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.

How remarkable? Since implementing the program, Robert W Coleman Elementary School has reported 0 suspensions, an incredible improvement in such a short period of time. 

It’s been so effective that the school decided to take things further and create a ‘Mindful Moment Room’. Students would be instructed to practice mindful breathing during the duration of their stay in the room, as opposed to traditional detention.

Since implementing the room, the school says it’s played a big part in reducing suspensions in addition to the program.  

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 enough.

But 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.

However, that’s just the beginning. Studies have also shown that teachers receive similar benefits when they adopt the practice themselves. Those benefits include 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 of how it’s implemented to the way it’s taught, are still being debated.

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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