Students at Kermit McKenzie Junior High use the Mindfulness Program to get calm, alert and ready to learn in their classroom.
The sound of silence is reducing student stress and discipline issues at Kermit McKenzie Junior High School in Guadalupe.
Since school started this year, students have been using a stress-reduction strategy called the Mindfulness Program.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was developed in 1979 by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and others at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Mindfulness-based treatments are practiced as a form of complementary medicine in over 250 hospitals and universities around the world, and are currently the focus of numerous research studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Institute of Health.
The technique, which is catching on in school districts and in the corporate world, uses breathing and concentration to decrease and curb behavioral issues and allows students to focus on learning.
Several studies have shown that mindfulness can be used to combat mental and physical problems and disorders such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
At McKenzie Junior High, it's working.
While the school has more than 400 students, disruptions have dropped by more than 200 incidents in several months at the campus, according to Principal Gabe Solorio.
"Over time, we hope to see the results continue,'' Solorio said. "It's too soon to tell if the majority of the drop in incidents is completely from Mindfulness. Time will tell. It helps our students get focused and in the moment. It makes it easier for them to learn. Face it, kids come to school with a lot of distractions.''
Two times each day -- once in the morning and once after lunch -- students take five minutes to get "calm, alert and ready to learn" inside their classrooms. Teachers participate, too.
The exercise begins with school counselor Luis Mendoza's voice over the intercom system. He instructs everyone to sit up straight, put their hands on their lap, close their eyes and relax for five minutes. He also tells them to control their breathing if their minds begin to wonder.
Sixth-grader Krystal Cervantes is a believer.
"It helps me relax and calm down from whatever,'' she said. "It makes it easier to learn for me and my friends. I like it.''
Teacher Terry Bauer agreed.
"They are better able to focus on the here and now,'' he said. "They are focusing in at the task at hand. Learning is why they are here.''
The Guadalupe Unified School District Board of Trustees approved use of the technique earlier this year.