Cindy Price, a first-grade teacher, wanted a way to get her students focused and calm.
Even after 24 years of teaching, Price isn’t afraid to try something new. She had heard about mindfulness practices, which include being present in the moment, observing without being too harsh on yourself and achieving an overall focus. They have a lot in common with the controlled breathing and meditation of yoga, and she wanted to try this in her classroom. Price, who teaches in the Colonial School District in northern Delaware, found a grant to cover the cost of kid-sized yoga mats, a yoga video and fitness tracking devices.
“Last couple of years, I’ve noticed they get very antsy and distracted,” Price said. “I want to increase the amount of time spent on task.”
Starting next week, Price will get another tool to help her solve that problem. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has partnered with ClassDojo, makers of an app that is used in millions of classrooms nationwide, to share researched-based educational practices meant to facilitate mindfulness among youngsters. A recent survey by ClassDojo by the center found that most teachers wanted to incorporate these mindfulness lessons in the classroom, but only 13 percent had the tools to do so.
The ClassDojo app helps teachers reinforce their own in-person lessons, and track a child’s classroom behavior. Colorful cartoon characters act out scenes that children watch – at home, in school or a combination of the two. The app also helps teachers communicate with parents, using it to send text messages, pictures and videos of what’s happening during the day. The app is used by millions of teachers in the United States, thus allowing the wide distribution of lessons like the mindfulness project.
Chris Frank, head of research at ClassDojo, said the company tries to find out what problems teachers are trying to solve, and then find research-based best practices they can push out to teachers, parents and students by means of the app. In other words, the technology is working in service to a larger goal. It essentially hands a microphone to a program like the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, which could be a more reliable source for the topic than whatever random website or blog post shows up first on a teacher’s Google search.
Price said she plans to incorporate the ClassDojo mindfulness program into her lessons to reinforce her in-person, existing mindfulness practice. She expects that the app, which was released Monday, will allow students to hear about the concept from cartoon characters. It will provide in-class and at-home access to the information they need to take a deep breath, relax and focus on the task at hand.
“I can’t wait,” Price said.