A team of US researchers has developed a mindfulness-based education curriculum which focuses on self-regulation and kindness- and has shown to dramatically improve academic performance in preschoolers.
The team at the University of Madison-Wisconsin published the findings of their 12-week mindfulness curriculum in the journal Developmental Psychology in January. The curriculum was designed from the results of a study published in 2011 which showed dramatic results in the child development following mindfulness therapy. The 2011 study followed 1,000 children from birth to 32 years old, and proved that self-control was a better indicator of success than IQ by demonstrating that those who had mastered self-control in childhood, went on to have better financial control and success, better health and were less likely to smoke, take drugs or commit crimes than those children who did not.
The team, led by top neuroscientist Richard Davidson, used these results to design the 12-week curriculum which is focused on promoting self-control, compassion and mindfulness in children. The curriculum uses hands-on activities such as awareness of breathing- taking a pebble, placing it on the belly and watching it move up and down with each breath – to teach music, movement and reading, showing children how to become aware of themselves and others by encouraging them to pay attention to each ‘present-moment’ experience.
The response to one particular activity is said to have stunned the researchers involved: A teacher rings a bell in the classroom then instructs the preschool children to raise their hands when they could no longer hear it. Davidson said that in the class of such young children it was astounding to see there was “stillness, complete and total stillness,” which showed they “…can taste what it means to settle.”
The children were then tested at the end of the year and those undertaking the Kindness curriculum are said to have received higher academic grades than those following the normal curriculum.