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Middle School Students Practice Mindfulness During Meditation Lab

A study conducted by the Center for Disease Control’s Division of Adolescent and School Health found that more than 40% of teens reported that they'd felt so sad or hopeless within the past year that they were unable to do their regular activities, such as schoolwork or sports, for at least two weeks. Statistics such as this underscore the need for schools to implement programs that address mental health issues and promote social and emotional well-being.  

One such program is the Meditation Lab, which is currently being offered to all sixth through eighth grade students at Sleepy Hollow Middle School. Funded through a grant from the Foundation for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns, the program teaches students how they can be kinder to themselves through practicing mindfulness—a type of meditation in which one focuses on being deeply aware of what they are sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. 

Instructor Jennifer Monness guided students through a series of breathing techniques, such as ‘double up breath,’ gentle movement and other relaxation-inspired poses during each 30-minute session. “Students lead challenging lives. By learning mindfulness techniques, we hope that they will be able to recalibrate when they are experiencing a challenge so that they respond thoughtfully instead of reactively,” said Ms. Monness.

Seated, laying down and standing, the smiling and relaxed students responded positively to the inspirational break in their day. Eighth-grader Kieran found it informative and helpful, saying: “I like that mindfulness broadens the mind.”

“Taking a moment to just take five breaths can make a big difference,” Ms. Monness said to the students as they sat in a restorative pose. She added, “It can be done quietly at your desk and no one will even know.” She encouraged students to implement these tools before starting the school day, a test, a game or a performance—or anytime that they may feel anxious.  

Ultimately, Ms. Moness’s goal during Meditation Lab is to “share techniques and tools to help SHMS teenage students navigate the ups and downs of Middle School life and help them to be their best selves.”