Category: Dissemination / Implementation
School children are often asked to control their behavior, while receiving little instruction on how to do so. The Mindful Schools curriculum was developed to be implemented in schools with limited resources during the school day, thus being able to help many students at low cost. In the current study this curriculum was delivered to the entire 7th grade of a small-town school as part of required health classes, with aspects of the program meeting a number of required state standards for health curriculum.
The school’s trimester system allowed a multiple baseline across cohort evaluation. Eleven cohorts of students (224 students total) completed an eight-item measure of stress and impulsivity at the beginning and end of all three trimesters, with roughly one-third having health and thus mindfulness training in any given trimester. All students and health teachers also completed the Mindful Schools evaluation form at the end of their health classes. Twice per week, the school’s at-risk counselor provided 15-minute mindfulness lessons in class; topics included mindful eating, breathing, loving-kindness meditations, and mindful physical movement.
Overall, the training did not appear to lower impulsivity or stress. The biggest impact on those was simply time of measurement, with all classes reporting more symptoms at the end of each trimester; in retrospect, this makes sense given upcoming trimester exams. However, comparing from the start of one trimester to the start of the next also did not show an impact of the program.
Many students though did report that they liked the program and found it beneficial. For example, 77% of students said they enjoyed the classes and 62% that mindfulness helped them. Open-ended responses included “I have used mindfulness before while I am having a panic attack,” “I ate food more slowly and enjoy it more,” “I use mindfulness during tests,” and “In sports if I am struggling I will just take deep breaths and say things to help me calm down.” Many referred to using mindfulness when they were upset with others such as parents, siblings, or friends.
Both parents and teachers responded positively to the inclusion of mindfulness training. The counselor received many supportive calls and emails from parents, and she noted a number of examples of both students and teachers reporting use of mindfulness in difficult situations throughout the year.
Overall, the Mindful School curriculum was successfully implemented in the required middle school health classes, and was very positively received by students, parents, and teachers. More in-depth discussion of the apparent lack of impact on symptoms of stress and impulsivity, as well as recommendations for similar program implementation and evaluation, will be included.
Laura Gourlay– At-Risk Counselor, Mt Pleasant Public Schools, Mt Pleasant, MI
Kaylie Allen– Graduate Assistant, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan
James Simms– Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
Elizabeth Meadows– Professor, Central Michigan University