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On a crisp fall day, students in Ms. Dawe’s first grade class transitioned subjects by sitting criss-cross applesauce around the meeting carpet. With their palms facing up and resting on each knee, they began to tap thumbs with each finger, simultaneously repeating the words “peace-starts-with-me” with each tap, gently lowering their voices after each repetition until the room grew quiet. Students then “reset” by reflecting quietly on things that make them feel cozy and calm.

“They are learning the experience of settling their body,” said Ms. Dawe. “Transitions can be a challenging time for students, now it’s a calm moment when we all take a pause and come back to being present.”

Ms. Dawe, like many other teachers at Brookwood, weaves mindfulness—defined by meditation expert Jon Kabat-Zinn as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”—into daily classroom routines for her students. All across our school, students are participating in, and in some cases leading, mindfulness practices: fifth graders engage in 10-minute guided meditations, PreK students use calming “belly breath” strategies, and Upper School students often jump start their mornings with Tai Chi.

Ms. Wang leads 7th graders through Tai Chi sequences

In today’s information-saturated and complicated popular culture, we recognize our critical responsibility in helping students obtain the information, skills and strategies they need to make healthy decisions for their bodies, hearts and minds. More and more research is showing the impact mindfulness can have on students’ physical and emotional health, social skills and academic performance. Specifically, studies have linked mindfulness to improvements in self-awareness and self-regulation, boosts in working memory, focus, and cognitive flexibility, and reductions in stress and anxiety. Brookwood faculty implement a variety of mindful practices to strengthen developmental processes—such as focus, resilience and self-soothing—which are critical building blocks for healthy lifestyles.

Mindfulness practice encourages us to slow down, stop the rush, ‘be’ instead of ‘do,’ and experience instead of just think.Dr. Christopher Willard

Mindfulness also provides a platform on which students can build their metacognition. “How do I learn?” is a central question as students aim to further their understanding of themselves as learners. Throughout the school day, Brookwood students reflect on their work: what went well, what didn’t go as well as they had hoped, what strategies they used, and how they might adjust their approach the next time. By understanding how they learn best, students learn to self-advocate for the tools they need and feel empowered by this understanding. To be successful learners, students must be able to pause, truly see and hear what is in front of them, and self-reflect, so that they can determine the best way to move forward with their learning.

Seeds of mindfulness can be planted in anyone at any time―seeds that under the right conditions can burst and bloom into a life of compassion and connection.Dr. Christopher Willard


Our 4-to-14 Speaker Series: Parenting Elementary School Kids provides an opportunity for parents to hear insights from authors, researchers and other experts in the child development field.

Join Dr. Christopher Willard on Tuesday, October 15 at 7:00 p.m. to learn tools and strategies you can use to raise mindful and resilient children.

Additionally, the Parents’ Association is hosting a reception at 6:00 p.m. immediately preceding the speaker series event. All parents and members of the community are welcome to attend!

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