Mindfulness Matters: Meditation, Yoga and SEL in After School
Research increasingly indicates that the addition of mindfulness through activities like meditation and yoga in after school programs benefits youth SEL outcomes.
Matthew Speicher, an AlphaBEST after school program site director, took notice. He offers club yoga time at the end of the day—an opportunity, he says, for children to re-center their minds and bodies.
“We’ve also introduced some time in our day for the kids to do some deep breathing exercises,” said Speicher, who shared that he struggled with anxiety as a child and still works to manage it today. “I’ve learned how to cope with my anxiety by taking deep breaths and taking some time for mediation.”
Speicher noticed his program had a high number of kids with anxiety this year.
“My team and I started to think of some ways to help the kids we serve and decided on yoga and meditation,” he said. “We thought that in the children’s everyday lives—even when we’re not with them—mediation and deep breathing would be something they could do.”
The benefits, as it relates to social and emotional learning, have been noticeable.
“I noticed that because our children had the tools they needed to be successful in dealing with their anxiety, the end of the school year was much smoother,” said Speicher. “It was important to my team to give students the tools they need to be successful in their battle with anxiety and have noticed that students are much more calm and able to problem solve better on their own.”
Speicher also noted that since introducing a new way for students to center their thoughts, they’re more attentive to the feelings of others and are now able to talk out their differences with their peers with ease.
“There are significantly fewer behavioral incidents since starting mindfulness breaks,” said Speicher. “Students are able to self soothe and able to problem solve internally.”
Students have outwardly shared their excitement over the activities, asking Speicher when yoga club will take place that day or expressing their enthusiasm for what they call their “breathing break.”
“Parents have also expressed thankfulness for these moments of mindfulness in our program and have said that it has truly helped their child.”
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