Imagine you're working at a school and one of the kids is starting to act up. What do you do?
Traditionally, the answer would be to give the unruly kid detention or suspension.
But in my memory, detention tended to involve staring at walls, bored out of my mind, trying to either surreptitiously talk to the kids around me without getting caught or trying to read a book. If it was designed to make me think about my actions, it didn't really work. It just made everything feel stupid and unfair.
But Robert W. Coleman Elementary School has been doing something different when students act out: offering meditation.
Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal's office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead.
The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it's filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.
Meditation and mindfulness are pretty interesting, scientifically.
Mindful meditation has been around in some form or another for thousands of years. Recently, though, science has started looking at its effects on our minds and bodies, and it's finding some interesting effects.
One study, for example, suggested that mindful meditation could give practicing soldiers a kind of mental armor against disruptive emotions, and it can improve memory too. Another suggested mindful meditation could improve a person's attention span and focus.
Individual studies should be taken with a grain of salt (results don't always carry in every single situation), but overall, science is starting to build up a really interesting picture of how awesome meditation can be. Mindfulness in particular has even become part of certain fairly successful psychotherapies.
Back at the school, the Mindful Moment Room isn't the only way Robert W. Coleman Elementary has been encouraging its kids.
The meditation room was created as a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a local nonprofit that runs other programs as well. For more than 10 years the foundation has been offering the after-school program Holistic Me, where kids from pre-K through the fifth grade practice mindfulness exercises and yoga.
"It's amazing," said Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman. "You wouldn't think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do."