What is the evidence base for Qi Time at School?
A strong body of research supports integration of meditative movement in the classroom. Consistent mindfulness practice has been shown to result in improved sense of well-being among children. (Huppert & Johnson, 2010) Additionally, interventions that promote mindfulness show positive effects on cognition and emotional well being in adults, and more recently, in children and adolescents. (Marusak et al, 2018). However, existing meditative movement programs need to be creatively adapted and taught in developmentally appropriate approaches for children. (Wall, 2008) Qualitative analysis of statements made by children who participated in a 5-week trial of a meditative movement program, piloted in a Boston public middle school, suggest that students experienced well-being, calmness, relaxation, improved sleep, less reactivity, increased self-care, self-awareness, and a sense of interconnection or interdependence with nature. (Wall, 2005)
Brain imaging studies on adults have shown that mindfulness meditation reliably and profoundly alters the structure and function of the brain to improve the quality of both thought and feeling in as little as 8 weeks. (Hölzel et al, 2011) Meditative exercise has been shown to positively modify systems controlling attention. (Jha et al, 2007) Children as young as pre-school have been found to increase time-on-task as a benefit of meditative movement practice. (Webster et al,, 2016) Preschoolers were also found to progress in motor skills acquisition and self-regulation. (Robinson et al. 2016) Similar positive effects were found in children with ADHD as well as improved behavior in the classroom. (Evens et al, 2017)Bogels et al (2008)evaluated the impact of mindfulness on a group of adolescents diagnosed with attention and behavior-control challenges. They reported significant increases in personal goals, sustained attention, happiness and mindful awareness; changes that were validated by their parents. In addition to the benefits stated above, postural correction resultant from mindful movement exercise programs has been found to improve sense of self.
Weare (2012) summarized the added value of mindfulness training incorporated into the school day in the UK, concluding that:
… for schools to engage in mindfulness [training] is likely to have beneficial results on the emotional wellbeing, mental health, ability to learn and even the physical health of their students. Such interventions are relatively cheap to introduce, have an impact fairly quickly, can fit into a wide range of contexts and above all are enjoyable and civilizing, for pupils and staff [and community].
Bogels, S., Hoogstaf, B., Van Dun, L., De Schutter, S. & Restifo, K. (2008) Mindfulness training for adolescents with externalizing disorders and their parents. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy 36(2), 193-209.
Gotlink, R.A. et al. 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice - A systematic review. Brain Cogn. 2016 Oct;108:32-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2016.07.001. Epub 2016 Jul 16.
Hölzel et al (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research Neuoroimagin. 191 (1): 36; 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006.
Huppert, F.A. & Johnson, D.M. (2010) A controlled trial of mindfulness training In schools; the importance of practice for an impact on well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(4), 264-274.
Jha AP, Krompinger J, & Baime MJ (2007) Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive Affective and Behavioural Neuroscience,7, 109-119.
Larkey L, Jahnke R, Etnier J, Gonzalez J. (2009) Meditative movement as a category of exercise: implications for research. J Phys Act Health., Mar;6(2):230-8.
Marusak, H.A., Elrahal, F., Peters, C.A., et al (2017). Mindfulness and dynamic functional neural connectivity in children and adolescents.Behav Brain Res.2018; Jan 15;336:211-218. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2017.09.010. Epub 2017 Sep 5. PMID:28887198
Robinson, L.E., Palmer, K.K., Bub, K.L. (2016) Effect of the Children's Health Activity Motor Program on Motor Skills and Self-Regulation in Head Start Preschoolers: An Efficacy Trial.
Front Public Health. 2016 Sep 8;4:173. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00173. eCollection 2016. PMID: 27660751 Free PMC Article
Wall, R.B. Teaching Tai Chi with mindfulness-based stress reduction to middle school children in the inner city: a review of the literature and approaches.Med Sport Sci. 2008; 52:166-72. doi: 10.1159/000134297. Review.PMID: 18487896
Wall, R.B. Tai Chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston Public Middle School.J Pediatr Health Care. 2005; Jul-Aug;19(4):230-7. PMID: 16010262
Webster, E.K., Wadsworth, D.D., Robinson, L.E. (2014)Preschoolers' time on-task and physical activity during a classroom activity break.Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2015 Feb;27(1):160-7. doi: 10.1123/pes.2014-0006. Epub 2014 Sep 23.PMID: 25249496