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The Science of Mindfulness: Campbell Hall, a K-12 School, Reduces Anxiety Among Students

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in three of all teens aged 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. With increased pressure to succeed and constant connection to social media, teens are often stressed by the implicit notion that they must pursue perfection. Even younger children are beginning to feel these same kinds of pressures. As stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, toxic stress levels in children can have a negative impact on learning and behavior, as well as on physical and mental health. The good news is that, according to a growing body of research, including a Johns Hopkins study, the practice of mindfulness can help mitigate anxiety and depression. Similar studies suggest that mindfulness interventions in schools can also boost attention, improve social and emotional skills, and develop resilience. 

While many schools are beginning to introduce mindfulness practice into the school day, including meditation, Campbell Hall, a K-12 school in Studio City, CA, has been integrating mindfulness into some of its classes and has created innovative mindfulness programs since 2007. In 2013, Campbell Hall formalized elementary school mindfulness by offering an after-school program taught by Mindfulness Educator Lonnie Ngo. Ngo sees the significant impact it has had on the participating elementary school students in reducing stress, "Every week, students share how they have used the mindfulness tools they have acquired. They calm themselves before tests, focus during a sports game, even teach others, like their grandparents, ways to steady nerves," she said. 

Even more importantly, mindfulness has a ripple effect on the school community as a whole.  "Mindfulness practice helps students learn how to step back and recognize how they are feeling," said Ngo. "They can then make measured choices - whether it's being less self-critical and more forgiving of themselves or choosing how they will act towards others. Having that moment to check in with yourself before reacting can lead to more compassionate actions for a kinder environment."

In 2015, Catherine Singer, high school English teacher and Mindfulness Educator, created the Campbell Hall curriculum for "The Science of Mindfulness," the first-of-its-kind, UC-approved elective. This semester-long course delves into all aspects of mindfulness including helping students develop a mindfulness practice that cultivates awareness, which they, in turn, share with others on campus. Students of the course report tremendous benefits on their overall well-being as well as their academic performance, as Caitlin J. '22 explained, "I used to not deal with stress well and found it took a toll on my life and happiness. I have learned to deal with stress more easily, and I am much happier now because of the mindfulness tools I have learned." 

Catherine Singer's expertise led her to create a new Audible Original series, Press Pause: A Young Person's Guide to Managing Life's Challenges. Singer says, "Mindfulness promotes resilience by guiding us to a place of presence and acceptance." 

Campbell Hall creates an environment where, in accordance with the school's mission of being a "community of inquiry," there is plenty of time and space for reflection and self-awareness. The campus offers a meditation room in the Nathanson-Swiger Chapel where all members of the community are welcome to practice mindfulness or simply to enjoy a quiet space. Both the Parent and Faculty Mindfulness groups meet weekly to practice as do the middle school and high school Mindfulness Clubs. 

Through Campbell Hall's implementation of the social-emotional learning TOOLBOX program in grades K-6, students learn 12 core tools to help them navigate a variety of challenges and build resilience, self-mastery, and empathy. Among these is the "breathing tool" which empowers children to calm themselves and check-in with how they are feeling. In addition, all elementary school students take yoga and movement classes. Campbell Hall's late-start model has also alleviated pressure on secondary students by allowing them time for much-needed rest in the mornings. 

The cumulative effect of these initiatives has alleviated anxiety in students. While Campbell Hall students still have a drive to succeed and work towards ambitious goals, the support they receive through a variety of tools and resources counteracts much of the stress they might otherwise feel.

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Campbell Hall Students
Campbell Hall's mindfulness programs alleviate anxiety in students.

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SOURCE Campbell Hall