According to our research repository, a compilation reference book of peer-reviewed studies on yoga, meditation, and mindfulness for children, adolescents, and in schools, approximately 1510 (as of 6/31/21) studies and research review articles have been published in this field since 1969. In summary, findings suggest that yoga supports the development of mind-body awareness, physical fitness and self-regulation. These competencies can have positive downstream effects on behavior, well-being, academic/cognitive performance, social awareness and relationships, supporting the social and emotional learning goals espoused by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL). And classroom teachers benefit, as well. Therefore, school-based yoga and mindfulness programs have the potential to offer a cost-effective, evidence-based solution to address many of the behavioral and academic challenges faced by schools, while promoting emotional resilience and positive school climate, key factors in keeping kids in school and preventing mental health disorders.
In an effort to help inform and inspire the continued discussion about key contributors and best practices for successfully integrating yoga and mindfulness into daily curricula, we’ve begun to document the implementation journeys of the schools we have supported. In addition, we hope to encourage the development of additional research projects that can serve to document such case studies, both qualitatively and quantitatively, helping to grow the field of evidence supporting use of mind-body practices in the educational setting. In our first case study, we highlight the school-wide implementation of the Yoga 4 Classrooms program at Edmunds Elementary in Des Moines, Iowa, which reveals several beneficial outcomes as a result of fostering social and emotional learning competencies over the last few years.
Edmunds Elementary is an inner-city school in Des Moines, IA where the student population is 95% minority with over 60% English Language Learners. When School Principal, Jaynette Rittman, started at Edmunds, she found that the students were extremely dysregulated despite the positive behavior intervention systems and social and emotional skill building programs they had in place. Jaynette and her team integrated their existing tools to create a school-wide system called EC3 (Edmunds Culture, Climate and Content). While this created a new framework for school-wide expectations, including the implementation of “Stop-Think-Make a Good Choice”, there was still something missing. Students were beginning to stop to think, but they were still lacking the skill set needed for self-managing and making a good choice.
After investigating the related benefits of integrating yoga and mindfulness at school, Jaynette and her staff decided to train with Yoga 4 Classrooms. With full staff buy-in and internal leadership, Yoga 4 Classrooms has been scheduled and integrated twice daily into the structure of the school day (as was their chosen implementation plan) and implemented school-wide with notable and continuing results (see update at end of this post). After just two years, Edmunds Elementary went from having the lowest test scores in the district to an 18.7% increase in 2016, the most significant improvement district-wide. Office referrals decreased from 1000 incidents per year to 250-300 incidents per year over the span of three years. Demonstrations of student engagement and student leadership have become increasingly common, as well as instances of students applying new skills outside of school during challenging situations. Staff members have shared that their own well-being, emotional resilience and effectiveness have been improved, and some have even been inspired to start or deepen their own personal mindful practices, as well. Not surprisingly, a general feeling of community, connectedness and overall engagement has had a significantly positive impact on the overall school climate.
Jaynette credits the successful implementation of Yoga 4 Classrooms to a number of factors including the decision to go school-wide and to integrate yoga into the daily schedule. In addition, she highlights administration support as being a critical factor to ensuring full implementation school-wide as well as staff buy-in and a democratic approach where all stakeholders feel heard. As well, and perhaps the most important piece, according to Jaynette, is effective and thorough training combined with a team-based, intrinsically motivated approach to curriculum fine-tuning and roll-out. Jaynette and her team were dedicated to developing a year-long curriculum to support their unique goals and objectives. Finally, she ensured that all staff members had all the support and resources they required including manuals, lesson plans, photocopies and even assigned support staff to help with the class and fill in when the classroom teacher was absent. With little to no external consulting and resources beyond that provided by the foundational Yoga & Mindfulness in the Classroom workshop, followed by the IMPLEMENT™ Leader Training, Edmunds has quite successfully and sustainably implemented yoga and mindfulness school-wide.
UPDATE AUGUST, 2022
Jaynette Rittman, Edmunds Elementary School Principal, joined us at her new staff training in August, 2022 to provide an update on where they are now in their 8th year of Yoga 4 Classroom Implementation. Watch the interview.
At Yoga 4 Classrooms, we understand the recipe for successful implementation of a school-based yoga and mindfulness program is unique to each school and depends on many variables. We also know that with strong leadership and effective, empowering training and support, sustainable and impactful school-wide implementation is possible. The Yoga 4 Classrooms program is designed to empower schools from the inside to plan and roll out implementation in a way that is best suited to their unique school community, goals and structures. Let’s get started.
Related Articles from Our Blog
Eight Years of Implementation – An Update from Edmunds Elementary
Des Moines School District Reduces Punitive Actions
Educators Use Yoga 4 Classrooms to Help Ease Student Anxiety Over Testing
An Antidote to Teacher Burnout: How Yoga and Mindfulness Can Support Resilience In and Out of the Classroom