by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Department of Education is spending upwards of $2.5 million to bring a mindfulness intervention to kindergarteners in Chicago, where kids can go to “calm spots” in the corner to watch nature videos.
The National Institutes of Health has spent over $100 million studying the New Age meditation technique, but it is not the only federal agency pouring federal funding into mindfulness. The Education Department has introduced a “Calm Classroom” program into 3,000 schools through its Investing in Innovation fund, costing taxpayers $2,513,093.
“Mindfulness is a secular, psychological mode involving non-judgmental focus on present-moment sensations, and has been shown to have a number of benefits to well-being,” the grant abstract for the project states. “Our project offers an innovative approach not only because mindfulness is unique relative to traditional social-emotional learning (SEL) programs, but also because of added elements designed to replenish children’s focus directly back into the content of school, including always-available ways to take very brief ‘brain breaks.’”
The program involves classrooms doing mindfulness activities three times a day. The exercises include “guided breathing with eyes closed, stretching, yoga-inspired poses, ‘body scan’ visualizations, focus on external objects, and ‘social mindfulness’ exercises involving peer interaction.”
The grant was awarded to the Erikson Institute, a graduate school that specializes in early childhood development.
Erikson invented the “Calm Spot,” or a corner for kids to put on noise canceling headphones and watch “soft fascination” videos of nature scenes on tablets.