Detention is the bane of every schoolkid’s existence. Act out in class, and, at best, you find yourself in a lame re-enactment of The Breakfast Club. At worst, you’re stuck in a windowless taupe-colored room with flickering yellow lights and nothing to do but homework. Homework! Of all things.
Except, at Baltimore’s Robert W. Coleman Elementary, that’s not how detention looks at all. What it looks like: purple pillows, draped fabric, lamps, and kids, not painfully watching the clock, but sitting cross-legged on the floor, their eyes closed in meditation.
Sound a bit different than the detention you experienced back in the day? That’s because it’s not actually a traditional detention room – it’s the Mindful Moment Room, a space for misbehaving kids to calm and recenter themselves through breathing exercises and meditation. The space was created through a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that’s committed to nurturing the wellness of both children and adults in underserved communities.
Meditation and mindfulness are a big thing these days, and rightly so. Scientists are just beginning to understand how powerful the benefits of taking time to chill can be, health-wise. What are the benefits? Think better stress response and immune function, along with improvements in vitality and well-being. Basically, all very important things for kids from tough communities who might otherwise not have access to meditation programs.
At Robert W. Coleman Elementary, it’s not just kids with disciplinary issues who are sent to the Mindful Moment Room. Children suffering from anxiety, headaches, stomach problems, and stress are also referred to the room for twenty-minute sessions with mindfulness instructors, which include five minutes of targeted discussion and fifteen minutes of mindfulness practice – yoga or breathing exercises depending on the situation.
The best part: the Mindful Moment Room, along with the Holistic Life Foundation’s other programs, including an after-school yoga and mindfulness training, seems to be working. The kids speak for themselves on the Holistic Life Foundation’s testimonial page – one 5th grader speaks of using breathing exercises before a big test: “I took deep breaths to stay calm and just finish the test. When everybody around you Is making a lot of noises just trying to tune them out…and be yourself, do your breathing.” Others speak of taking the principles they’ve learned at school and applying them to their frustrations at home: “This morning I got mad at my Dad, but then I remembered to breathe and then I didn’t shout.”
And it’s not just working on an individual level, it’s also translating to the schools. Robert W. Coleman Elementary , for example, didn’t give out a single suspension last year, while the nearby Patterson Park High, which also offers students mindfulness programs through the Holistic Life Foundation, reported fewer suspensions and an increase in attendance rates.
Whether or not meditation rooms are the way of the future is unknown, but if things do go that way, let it be known that we were the first ones to call for a Breakfast Club remake starring a group of assorted high-schoolers coming to realize that they’re all more than their stereotypes…while dealing with hours of breathing exercises and an overly-peaceful yogi mindfulness leader. Someone get on that, please.