The benefits of mindfulness practice in the classroom have been well documented. Like adults, children who learn to meditate often report reduced stress and anxiety, increased capacity to focus and concentrate, and even better sleep. At Community Roots Coop we also actively integrate these practices into conflict transformation and the development of emotional intelligence. Our kids sometimes practice on the cushion, but more often we are exploring present-moment awareness through sensory activities, movement, and play. A typical "Mindful Monday" afternoon class includes the following routine practices:
- Bell listening. Each child gets a chance to ring a bell while others practice concentrating. When you can no longer hear the bell, raise your hand. When all hands are raised, pass the bell to the next child in the circle.
- Quiet walking. Each week a different leader is chosen to guide the class on a silent walk in nature. Once back in the classroom, we share what we noticed (sounds, sights, smells, textures, etc).
- Mindful eating. A favorite each week, the kids enjoy slowing down the process of eating a blueberry, raisin, orange slice, cracker, or on special occasions a piece of chocolate. We notice texture, smell, salivation, and evolving taste.
We also have fun with special activities like making our own calming jars and breathing buddies. At Community Roots Coop our mindfulness program is designed by parent Kristina, a longtime insight meditation practitioner and certified teacher who trained under Tara Brach and is a member of the associate faculty at Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville.