Students in Sarah Rouzzo’s seventh grade English Language Arts classes have been learning more than just reading, writing and language this year. They’re also learning about mindfulness, the psychological process of purposely bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment.
“I was shocked at the results and the positive benefits that are coming from this. I have less discipline problems. Students request the meditations if I forget, which happens. If we do this at the start of the class, they are much more prepared, focused, centered, grounded,” said teacher Sarah Rouzzo.
Mathews High School is one of thousands of schools across the country bringing mindfulness into the classroom. Studies show it has the ability to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, increase focus and self-regulation, and improve academic performance and sleep. At a professional development opportunity in November, school counselor Julie Berkhouse learned about how other local district were incorporating mindfulness into their schools. She decided to implement the practice beginning with Rouzzo’s seventh grade classes.
“One of the reasons we like seventh grade is because it’s a new building. It is a new environment and it’s transitioning you to the next five or six years that you will be here. So, if we can teach you these skill sets now, when you do get this heavy testing in high school with the ACT and college decisions, it kind of gives you a place to step back and relax and reground yourself,” said Berkhouse.
In January, the district welcomed Alliance City School’s director of curriculum and instruction to Mathews High School to provide guidance on setting up a mindfulness program.
“I was here to share some of the things that I have done in my other districts that have helped students and staff. Mrs. Berkhouse invited me to talk with her as she is going through the development of a program to go along with their PBIS and they have a lot of great things in place,” said Christine Gibowicz.
Next year, the district hopes to expand its mindfulness program to include more grade levels.