Curriculum Alignment

Reducing Student Stress and Anxiety Through Mindfulness

By Stephanie DiNola and Melissa Killingbeck

An April 2021 online article published by The Wall Street Journal describes how this past year of school shutdowns and increased family trauma has increased stress and mental health issues among school-aged children. Similarly, researchers at Harvard University following 224 U.S. children between the ages of seven and 15 discovered that the number of children showing “clinically significant signs of depression or anxiety” had more than doubled compared to 2019. This data — while somewhat shocking — is confirmation of what educators and parents already know — our students’ lives and experiences have changed drastically from other generations. 

At The Positivity Project, we are committed to doing everything we can to support the ever-changing needs of P2 Partner Schools and their students, which is why we regularly survey our schools and diligently analyze the feedback. 

This past spring, St. Clair Middle School teacher, Nichole Flynn, suggested we consider adding mindfulness lessons to our resources after recognizing her students’ increased stress and anxiety. And, we listened! 

Research shows teaching lessons on mindfulness in the classroom can reduce the adverse effects of stress and anxiety, help students learn to self-regulate emotions, and increase their attention. Mindfulness — simply defined — is the art of being self-aware and remaining present in the moment. Mindfulness lessons for children include a wide range of activities designed to help reduce stress and increase their ability to focus.

Therefore, if students come to school with increased levels of stress and anxiety, and teaching lessons on mindfulness in the classroom reduces adverse effects; why wouldn’t we provide space for this in our curriculum? As a result, our Resource Development Team has been hard at work creating Mindful Moment, an off-the-shelf resource for teaching mindfulness lessons in the classroom. The Mindful Moment resource is embedded within our Pre-K–12 weekly character strength slideshows. Each Mindful Moment activity focuses on one of three mindfulness practices: breathing, savoring, or grounding.  

  • Breathing: Uses the breath as an object of concentration. By focusing on the breath, you become aware of the mind’s tendency to jump from one thing to another. 
  • Savoring: When we savor something, it means that we are fully present with it and appreciative of the experience. The opportunity to savor is available to us in the smallest, most simple of moments.
  • Grounding: When our mind and body are returning to a place of negative or challenging emotions due to trauma or stress, grounding helps us return to the present moment with sustained attention. 

With activities differentiated by grade-level bands (Pre-K–2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12), our one-page implementation guide removes the guesswork by providing grade-appropriate suggestions for how and when each activity best fits. Teachers have the autonomy to determine the best time — and how frequently — to implement this resource based on the real-time needs of their students. In addition, providing consistent opportunities for students — Pre-K–12 — to practice mindfulness will further help students transfer these important life skills into their daily lives.

Stephanie DiNola and Melissa Killingbeck

Stephanie is a secondary curriculum developer for The Positivity Project. She graduated from the University of San Diego with her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts for education. Her teaching career took her from California to Italy, Texas, and finally North Carolina. During those seven years, she taught language arts, social studies, and math in both elementary and middle school. Her passion for teaching was rooted in the relationships she developed with her students and colleagues. Because of this interest in relationships, she earned her master's degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Kansas during her time as a teacher.
Melissa is the Curriculum Manager for P2 and is responsible for ensuring our resources are at their highest quality. Melissa earned her bachelor's degree and teaching certificate in elementary education and holds a Master's in Education along with a certification in K-12 administration. Before joining the P2 team, Melissa was a successful P2 Partner School principal in Flushing, Michigan, where she worked for 25 years as a teacher, instructional coach, and principal.