Cultivating a Mindful Campus

A 2013 study published by the American Psychological Association concluded that teens are under more stress than their adult counterparts. Ross School is doing its part to try to mitigate that stress with a multifaceted approach to educating the whole child that includes campuswide mindfulness practice. During most school days, 10 minutes is set aside for all Ross School students and faculty to disengage from their day and turn inward. The hope is that teaching students healthful habits early will provide them with lifelong tools to successfully address challenges in their lives.

According to Dean of Wellness Cathy Yun, the teenage years can be high-risk, as young people have the potential to develop detrimental habits and unhealthy ways of coping with their stress. “Many students feel that they have little control over a very structured life which is charged with reminders of its high stakes,” Cathy said. “There are also social and emotional components that adolescents who are still developing life skills can find overwhelming.”

Mindfulness is so important at Ross School that it is one of the eight core values of the school. It is also a key component of Ross’s holistic Wellness curriculum, which nurtures students’ growth through movement education, the food they are served, health education, social and emotional counseling, and the creation of a safe and pleasant environment.

“Mindfulness as an idea, philosophy, and practice for self-awareness and wisdom bred through insight is more than a content area within the Wellness curriculum,” Cathy said. “Mindfulness drives the curriculum.” For all Ross students, including those in its Early Childhood program, a mindfulness practice is built into their academic schedule. Led by more than 20 teachers across all academic domains and on two campuses, students learn the principles of meditation, intentional breathing exercises, and additional contemplative practices.

As the mindfulness leader for a group of 10th grade students, Cathy said she is often impressed by her students’ integrity and authentic attention to the contemplative exercises. In fact, she said, both teachers and students have shared stories about the growth they’ve experienced as a result of the daily practice, which would not be possible without her community of dedicated faculty volunteers.

“Our community is filled with exceptional leaders who are all champions of school’s commitment to wellness—sages who gently and lovingly direct students toward lives of well-being,” Cathy said.