Teachers in Boston are offering an Early Learning program based on mindfulness practice: . Every Saturday morning from June 7 to August 2, parents will bring their 4-6 year-old children to a different outdoor location where teachers will combine math, science, and language arts with games and exercise. The purpose is to teach in a way that involves fun activities that challenge students to practice regulating their minds and bodies. The program is being coordinated through MeditationPracticeOrNot.com.
The program is designed based on one fundamental principle: All fun and enjoyment comes from the building and releasing of tension. Think of a suspenseful film, for example. The enjoyment comes from the thrill of tension, the tense exhilaration of uncertainty. The game “Hide and Seek” also has a kind of tension. When teaching mindfulness to young children, they use the 'Self-Control Game' and 'Fast Listening Game' to teach students how to enjoy a challenge to pay attention and control their bodies/minds.
Ms. Mallory explains, 'When Cori climbs the ladder to take her turn going down the slide, I don’t miss the opportunity to reinforce her cooperative behavior. I say, Wow, that was fast listening! Cori got up and climbed the ladder right away!' Ms. Mallory knows she did not really climb the ladder because of the suggestion. She climbed it because she wanted to go down the slide! But she reinforces the fact that the student “listened quickly” because she wanted to make it enjoyable for children to behave in ways that promote learning, safety, and social development.
As a result of seeing some attention given to Cori when she “listened quickly”, the other children in the group become interested in listening quickly. “Who can be a fast listener?” Mrs. Mallory asks them, and she raises her hand. Many of them raise their hands and respond. Mindfulness practice is meditation while doing something, and that means students practice to be deeply aware of what they are doing while they are doing it.
Ms. Mallory explains, 'We can have mastery of our classrooms if we make Fast Listening fun. It’s like any other game. When students have restless energy, challenge them to a game of fast listening. When a child is “disobedient” or exhibits undesirable behaviors, it may come from simple restlessness.'