December 1, 2016

Pint-sized Meditation Guides

Brooks & Grayson
Meet Grayson and Brooks, two Kindergartners in Beth Huennekens’ class at Friends’.

It has been a while since I was a Kindergarten boy.  What I remember from those days is digging in the sand, playing chase, and kicking a ball around.  I’m pretty sure that Grayson and Brooks like to do those things too.  But this week, they were up to something a little different.

They made an announcement to their teachers and to their classmates that they were eager and prepared to lead them in a guided meditation, something they had learned by practicing it themselves.  They asked their Kindergarten friends and teachers to sit in a circle, close their eyes, and place their hands either together in front of their chests or on their knees in a lotus pose.

Brooks took the lead, telling a story, inviting the class to imagine that they were listening to waves, seeing a golden sand castle, and in a quiet clear voice, asked them to visualize a huge rainbow-colored dot that came down from the sky and turned into a hot air balloon carrying a friend. While Brooks created the story, Grayson quietly circled the room, gently correcting the meditation poses for maximum effect. Grayson then picked up the story, asking his peers to imagine walking into a meadow and to think about someone they love.

The guided meditation lasted for four or five minutes, according to our Teacher Candidate Annika Nygren.  That’s a pretty long time for Kindergartners to sit in silence with such focus.  Yet everyone did.

Brooks and Grayson told Beth that, during a different class activity where they were thinking about energy zones, they noticed that meditation was something that put them both in the blue (rest) zone level of energy. They thought it was cool that they had some similarities and differences.

When Beth asked the boys how they thought it went, they initially said, "It went pretty good.  Excellent actually.  The kids' faces looked happy, so that means they liked it.”

Then they said, "Actually, we're not sure it went so well because some friends said it was boring.  That probably means it was hard and something we need to work on."

And that is what a growth mindset is all about – something we focus on at Friends’ School a lot.

Brooks explained, "We want more friends to like it!  We want them to be able to do harder mediation, like when you're totally silent and don't even tell a story."

Grayson added, "Yeah, for like 30 minutes!  That would take a lot of practice."

"Meditation" corner in Kindergarten
The boys created a corner of their classroom to be a meditation center.  They made this sign for it especially. They also told their teacher about how some friends were already showing moreinterest because they worked with them at choice time.  Brooks said, "Maybe they can help teach others!"

There is a great deal of research today about how using meditation in schools is effective in supporting learning. Meditation also brings excellent health benefits and positively affects brain activity. Mindfulness education programs improved students’ self-control, attentiveness and respect for other classmates, enhanced the school climate, and improved teachers’ moods.  This is a link to several studies collated by Friends’ former partners at the Great Good Science Center if you would like to learn more.

I’m pretty sure that Grayson and Brooks are not aware of these studies.  I’m equally certain that they know what feels good – in their bodies, in their brains, and in their classroom.

I’m proud of these Kindergarten leaders for sharing their passion with their class.  And I’m grateful for the experience and skill of Beth and Annika for giving them the respectful space to let this happen.


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