Your Donations at Work: Mindfulness at John Adams Middle School

Your donations to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation support amazing projects, like the school-wide Mindfulness Program at John Adams Middle School.

Principal Steve Richardson shared how the daily mindfulness sessions have positively impacted the school. “The qualitative data have been overwhelmingly positive, with a dramatic decrease in suspensions and, especially, a decrease in students engaged in physical altercations. Survey results from staff and students are also very positive. It’s helping to create an overall tone of calm, respect, and a sense of belonging on our middle school campus. The program provides students with a few minutes of guided breathing exercises at the start of each day to calm their minds and get them focused for the day ahead. Ed Foundation funds are used for the training and materials provided by the YES for Schools organization. JAMS teachers conduct the daily mindfulness sessions either by leading the session themselves or by using pre-recorded instructions. In some cases, student ambassadors lead the sessions. Teacher Devon Smith opted to lead the exercises himself rather than use the recorded sessions. At first, he was skeptical and even uncomfortable doing so; but he quickly saw that the majority of his students were on board, which was a pleasant surprise. In a recent second period class, Mr. Smith led his students in a brief breathing exercise. Students were asked to clear their desks, sit up tall and leave their hands free. They closed their eyes and followed his instructions to focus on their breath, beginning with four deep breaths. Other than the hum of the heating unit, the room was exceptionally quiet and still. After a few minutes, Mr. Smith quietly asked students to open their eyes. After a quick check-in, he then launched into the topic for the day’s quick-write, which would be five minutes of non-stop, no talking, journal writing. Students immediately settled in and got started. Lyrick Fisher, one of Mr. Smith’s students, shared how the breathing exercises have helped her, “It’s good for us to learn how to stay focused at the beginning of class. It soothes you and makes you relaxed. I feel more focused when I actually do it.” Science teacher Pam Sever uses pre-recorded exercises that focus on breathing and on being present in the moment. She explained, “I’ve found the exercises help students to relieve stress, especially before or after a test. They come in all anxious and boisterous, but after the session you can hear a pin drop. They’re ready to roll.” In Ms. Sever’s class, students can select to remain in their seats for the five-minute session, or choose to stretch out on one of the room’s lab tables. Ms. Sever explained, “That’s a popular choice! With fewer tables than students, I have to use a luck-of-the-draw method of pulling cards to select which kids can use the tables each day.” Ms. Sever’s students appear to be taking their mindfulness exercises on the road. During a trip to Yosemite, students practiced mindfulness sessions out in nature, in the snow. On a hike into the pitch-black “spider cave” they were able to stave off panic attacks by reminding each other to breath. “It really worked!” shared Melizza Ochoa. “I’m using it more and more at home and at school. I think it’s helping me, especially on tests.” Thanks, Ed Foundation donors!