There’s a change sweeping schools across Baltimore and it’s seeing less students being suspended, higher attendance rates and more students graduate. In a city that’s sadly known for its high crime rates, violence, drug abuse and poverty – 35% of children in the Western District live below the poverty line compared to 14% in the rest of the state – something is happening that might just see some long term change.
Students are learning about mindfulness.
The Holistic Life Foundation was established to nurture the wellness of children in disadvantaged communities. One of their key programs, Mindful Moment, teaches children, from as young as kindergarten, meditation techniques and yoga.
Founded by born and bred Baltimore locals, brothers Ali and Atman Smith and their friend, Andres Gonzalez, the Holistic Life Foundation has a commitment to developing high-quality evidence based programs and curriculum to improve community wellbeing. Schools that are involved in the program have compulsory 10-15 minutes of meditation at the start and end of the school day.
In addition, most of the schools also have a Mindful Room where unruly students can be sent to have a time out instead of detention which is having a remarkable effect. The room is decorated warmly and provides comfortable mediating cushions for the children. When they’re in that room, the students are guided through breathing exercises or a meditation, to help them relax and calm their mind. Sometimes children now even take themselves to the room when they recognise they need a time out.
The Holistic Life Foundation will be celebrating its 15th birthday this December and they now serve over 4,500 students each week. The feedback from everyone involved in the school programs has been exceptional, including this one from a 5th grade student:
“Sometimes when I get mad I just breathe deep… I just, like I picture me being in a certain place I like, and I just thought I could overcome everybody and then I just stop being mad…I think of being a bigger person and doing something maybe a wise man would do… I think of something that a stronger, a mentally stronger person would do.”
The social outcomes being seen in Baltimore are amazing and it seems science is now catching up and we’re starting to see research that mindfulness and meditation can really make positive differences to our minds and bodies. I, personally, have enjoyed the benefits of yoga and meditation in recent years and know how regular practice can really change your mindset.
So this Thank You Thursday, I’d like to take a mindful moment to say thank you to Ali, Atman and Andres and the team at the Holistic Life Foundation for their incredible work with the young people of Baltimore. Let’s hope programs like this can be seen in schools everywhere!
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.