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Going beyond the 3 Rs of education towards attention, mindfulness and emotional control

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Recent NPR's Tom Ashbrook's program "On Point" included a great discussion of mindfulness efforts in education, with guests from both research and practical application ends. An hour long radio show focused on how cultivating mindfulness among students within the framework of a school curriculum allows to train the minds and "mold kids brains" to help them in their positive growth, successful learning and lifelong wellness.

The overarching theme is the "fundamental rethinking of what education should be", by going beyond the traditional curriculum known as three Rs and including teaching perseverance, self-control, and mindfulness at school. Touching upon the extant research in neuroscience, Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, PhD, explains how mindfulness is related to stress reduction, executive function and inhibitory control/self-regulation, which have become mainstream topics in education-related dialogues these days.

One of the guests is Ingrid Wickelgren, an editor at Scientific American Mind, and we highly recommend her comprehensive upcoming article on the issue, titled  “The Education of Character: Scientists, politicians and celebrities are remaking schools as gyms for the brain where teachers build the mental brawn for attention, perseverance and emotional control.”

The show is quite engaging and lively due to its interactive set up. Callers bring up very hot and relevant questions for the program's guests to discuss. Among those are the relationship between mindfulness and school prayer; the longevity of an in-classroom positive mind-training ( "not a 5-minute thing here and there"); the tendency among parents to delegate their responsibility of launching and supporting the character education in their children to school professionals. Concerning the last issue, the consensus among speakers was that schools can put children who are not well-supported emotionally at home into the framework for learning and prepare them for the rigors of academics and life. However, the importance and power of parents in fostering positive development and resilience in children is emphasized.

One of the points made in the program regarding the popular concept of social-emotional learning is understanding the importance of its larger context: being a good citizen, developing gratitude, taking perspective, cultivating compassion. At the Yoga 4 Classrooms®, we can relate to that with our core curriculum component Be Well.

Another great point brought up was regarding the involvement of the parents and the whole school ( if not the whole school district) in the mindfulness-based program, creating a community through a sense of ownership, common language, support network and thus increasing the sustainability and effectiveness of the program. Indeed, this is supported in its core by the four components of the Yoga 4 Classrooms, which work synergistically to implement the program and ensure its longevity for a lifetime of health and wellness.

Although focused mostly on the program called MindUp and its efficacy research studies, this radio show touches upon a very wide-spread notion in contemporary education, which is also the focus of many other organizations. One such program, Inner Kids, postulates the "new ABCs – Attention, Balance & Compassion". Other notable organizations are International Association for School Yoga & Mindfulness (IASYM), Consciousness-Based Education Association, Mindful Schools, although there are many more!

For scientific publications referenced in the radio program and related to the topic of discussion, you can click here and here. Learn more about scientific research behind yoga and mindfulness in the schools on our webpage.

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