Ancient art working to keep Capital Region students calm in class

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s called “mindfulness.”

“Psychology Today” defines it as “a state of active, open attention on the present, observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad.”

After years of growing discipline concerns, Hoosick Falls Central School decided to make a change. And not just any change – a cultural change that’s school wide. Students from Pre-K to 12th grade take part.

Twice a day for a few minutes, students close their eyes and focus on nothing but their breathing.

“Five minutes a day is a very small investment when it comes to having kids who are ready to learn,” fourth grade teacher Katie Brownell said.

It’s proven to be wildly successful.

“If anything is bothering me when I come in the classroom, I like it because it relaxes me more when I do it,” fourth grader Andrew Sparks.

“It helps us a lot,” junior Cassie Crucetti said. “I’m really glad that we implemented this program.”

Disciplinary referrals have also dropped 30 percent overall.

“We have outstanding kids, and they’ve bought into this,” Dean of Students Mario Torres said. “Our staff has bought into this. We’re in the infancy, but we’re seeing tremendous results.”

But students didn’t accept it right away. “Mindfulness” was a tough sell at first, especially with the teenagers.

“I actually, really was against it,” junior Madeleine Atherton said. “I really didn’t want to do it at all.”

At first everyone took it as a joke,” junior Samantha Thomas said. “No one took it seriously. We really didn’t think it would last.”

If it weren’t for teachers like David Coffey, who teaches eleventh grade English, the concept of “mindfulness” may never have taken hold.

“I had to find a better way of directing my extra energy and basically controlling my stress,” he said. “Mindfulness actually helped. I’ve been doing it before it became an initiative at school.”

“Mr. Coffey was the one who got me into it,” Atherton said. “He talked us through it and told us what we needed to do so I tried it and now I do it all the time.”

Word of the district’s success is getting around.

“Other teachers and administrators are asking, ‘How did you make this work in your district?’” high school principal Stacy Vadney said.

The success of “mindfulness” in Hoosick Falls schools was the result of hard work. The initiative was two to three years in the making.

The district isn’t done. Teachers and administrators said they’ll be expanding the effort next year by developing new activities for students to become even more mindful.

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