Teaching habits of mind in school (audio podcast)

Meditation: coming to a school near you? In this episode of NPR's "On Point," Tom Ashbrook looks at how mindfulness practices are being integrated into North American schools and the research that drives these programs. 

It's a new kind of thinking, that cultivating excellence in children happens before they even open a textbook or enter a classroom. Tom Ashbrook speaks with three key individuals about the sorts of programs that are emerging and the data behind it. The guests are:

Ingrid Wickelgren, an editor at Scientific American Mind. Her latest piece in the September/October issue of Scientific American is "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."

Kimberely Schonert-Reichl, applied developmental pyschologist and a professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Pyschology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia. 

Becky Bruenig, 3rd grade teacher at Basalt Elementary School. 

To provide some context, Ashbrook asks Wickelgren about the sorts of programs that schools are participating in, and she talks about MindUp, a program put together by the (Goldie) Hawn Foundation. In a classroom setting, children are asks to meditate three times a day for two minutes. She describes the process:

"Kids essentially are essentially very quiet, they focus on their breath only, for two minutes, three times a day. It sounds like nothing[…]to at least traditional educators, probably a waste of time, but what the kids are doing is by focusing on their breath, they are training their attention. And what they're supposed to do is they are supposed to let other thoughts pass them by and not focus on them and really train their thoughts only on their breath. And not only does that train attention but it also calms them down. Being calm is very important to learning."

Wickelgren says there are other programs that work on social-emotinoal learning, but the MindUP program is particularly prevalent, as it exists in 75 schools in the United States and 175 schools in Canada (primarily in public schools). 

To listen to the audio podcast, click here.


[photo © flickr.com/Strocchi]