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New Study by Shanthi Project & Muhlenberg College: Significant Impact of Mindfulness in Schools

A recently published study on the impact of a mindfulness program for young children shows a significant increase in students’ positive behaviors and an even larger decrease in students’ problem behaviors.


The study “Effects of a School-Based Mindfulness Program for Young Children” was conducted in partnership with the Allentown nonprofit Shanthi Project and Muhlenberg College psychology researchers. Published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, the study evaluated the effectiveness of Calm+Kind+Focused, an eight-week mindfulness program that took place in grades K-2 at Marvine Elementary School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in Fall 2019.


Key Takeaways

  • Teachers reported an approximate 14% increase in their students’ positive behaviors (e.g., being considerate of others’ feelings, sharing with others, helping others) from pre to post program.

  • Teachers reported an approximate 18% decrease in their students’ problem behaviors (e.g., hyperactivity, impulsivity, conduct problems)

  • Teachers who participated with their students in more of the mindfulness sessions and who implemented more mindfulness practices outside of the program saw more positive results.

  • Program outcomes did not differ by child sex or race/ethnicity.

"Although Shanthi Project has always prioritized the collection of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of our yoga and mindfulness programs, our seven-year collaboration with Professor Mark Sciutto and students in the Muhlenberg College Psychology Department has taken our research to the next level,” says Shanthi Project Founder Denise Veres (pictured below working with several Muhlenberg students.)


“We now have conclusive evidence that our mindfulness program is effective for helping students enhance pro-social behaviors which build kinder, more empathic classroom environments, and also decrease difficult behaviors resulting in healthier, less disruptive classrooms,” she adds. “Our findings show that mindfulness program outcomes align with the educational and life skill goals of helping children regulate emotions, reduce stress and improve focus. This research will also help build programs with stronger and widespread results.”


“Particularly in stressful times, we find ourselves focused heavily on the past or the future,” says Muhlenberg College Professor of Psychology Mark Sciutto. “Mindfulness practices, on the other hand, develop the ability to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. These practices are a pathway to support the well-being of our students, teachers and staff, inside the classroom and out. Research, like the project at Marvine Elementary, offers a valuable opportunity to better understand how to create a healthier ‘ecosystem’ in our school communities.”

Also see: Three Student Researchers Are Co-Authors of Recently Published Mindfulness Study by Meghan Kita

Additional Background:


Overview of Study

  • The school-based mindfulness program Calm+Kind+Focused was designed and run in partnership with the Allentown nonprofit Shanthi Project, which administers school-based mindfulness programs in the Lehigh Valley and New Jersey, and Muhlenberg College student researchers, led by Professor of Psychology Mark Sciutto.

  • Calm+Kind+Focused is a 16 session program (twice per week for eight weeks) for children in grades K-12. Each 20-minute session is implemented in the classroom by a Shanthi Project instructor with extensive training in mindfulness and trauma-informed practices. The program follows a curriculum developed by the Shanthi Project.

  • The study took place in grades K - 2 at Marvine Elementary school in Bethlehem, PA in the fall of 2019.

  • Classroom teachers completed a 25-question social and emotional behaviors questionnaire for each student, before and after the 8-week mindfulness presentation. The Strengths & Difficulties Questionnaire assesses positive (prosocial) and problem behaviors.

Primary Results

  • Teachers reported approximately a 14% increase in their students’ positive behaviors (e.g., being considerate of others’ feelings, sharing with others, helping others) from pre to post program.

  • Teachers reported approximately an 18% decrease in their students’ problem behaviors (e.g., hyperactivity, impulsivity, conduct problems)

  • Teachers who participated with their students in more of the mindfulness sessions and who implemented more mindfulness practices outside of the program saw more positive results.

  • Program outcomes did not differ by child sex or race/ethnicity.

Implications and Future Directions

  • Results from this study suggest that finding ways to better involve classroom teachers in the mindfulness curriculum would enhance the effectiveness of mindfulness-based programs like this. Teachers, themselves, may benefit from greater training in how to develop their own mindfulness practices.

  • Future studies by Shanthi Project and Muhlenberg College Professor Mark Sciutto and his student researchers will examine the extent to which mindfulness practices can be integrated into the broader school climate, with a goal of creating an “ecosystem” where the social and emotional skills developed in these programs are integrated throughout the school.

Original article by Kristine Yahna Todaro, Director of News & Media Relations, Muhlenberg College. For more information, contact Shanthi Project's Executive Director, Maureen Wendling, maureen@shanthiproject.org.

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