There is now substantial evidence that teaching social and emotional skills to children in all grades through high school pays off. For a meta-analysis of 200+ studies involving 250,000+ children, see here. Mindfulness is often a part of this learning, often abbreviated to SEL. Thanks to Daniel Goleman and Linda Lantieri for their pioneering efforts. And to Mindful Schools and the Hawn Foundation for looking really deeply into curriculum needs and creating new programs.
I have been trained (a weekend of lecture and experiential learning) in the Mindful Schools curriculum, and taught it twice to 6th graders in New York City. I’m happy with the results, as are the students, teachers, and administration. I already had a well-developed personal meditation practice, and 4 years experience teaching mindfulness meditation to adults.
The Mindful Schools curriculum consists of 15 lessons of about 15 minutes each. They have been used with thousands of children, and teacher feedback has produced solid, tried and true, lessons. I am less familiar with the lessons written for high school students.
I have been reading the MindUp curriculum, published recently by Scholastic. This curriculum is designed to be taught for most of a school year, with 15 to 30 minutes devoted to each class, and with participation by the school as a whole. So, in addition to the primary teacher, there is an expectation of using a core breathing practice at the beginning and the end of each day, and of possibly using it at some transition points. There is an enrichment opportunity for teachers in social studies, language arts, and science to build elements into their teaching. Taken together, this approach shows much promise, because children are more like to learn and internalize something that is integrated into the educational experience.
So…. while Mindful Schools has the advantage of lots of experience, MindUp has a more ambitious idea to teach more deeply, with more integration into the overall educational experience. Both will benefit as more research become available. For now, there is enough research from SEL to merit, in my opinion, introducing either curriculum now.
Teachers, parents, and administrators, please add your comments. I want this to be he beginning of a conversation. We can gain so much from sharing our experiences.