"Should we decide to offer mindfulness instruction during the school day? Then how would we go about that?" she said. "Stan's AP physics classes are always full, so do we pull him away from that curriculum to lead mindfulness classes? These are questions we need to explore.
"Clearly, there's a need for this, and as an elective, [mindfulness] would be awesome. If it were to become an approved class — which would require going through the proper channels within the county school system, just like any other class — then any school can offer it," Miller said.
Ellicott Mills pilot
Ellicott Mills Middle School is contemplating incorporating mindfulness instruction into the school day in a proposed pilot program for two sixth-grade classes, said Principal Michael Goins.
"The goal is to help students to be free of judgment and fully attentive to what's present in this moment," he said, noting the program will be a topic for discussion at the next PTA meeting and could launch in February.
The pilot sessions would be taught by a volunteer instructor with Minds Incorporated, a Washington-based nonprofit founded in November. The plan under consideration calls for 15-minute sessions to be held twice a week over an eight-week period.
"Mindfulness helps with emotional regulation, paying attention and staying focused, and with cultivating compassion for one another," said Goins, who has practiced meditation for 10 years.
He said he taught a class in mindfulness for Ellicott Mills teachers last fall, believing that arming them with stress-relief strategies "can't help but benefit our students."
Dave Trachtenberg, program manager at Minds Incorporated, said mindfulness programs in schools have been popping up in major metropolitan areas across the country over the past five or six years. There's also been a marked spike in interest in the mindfulness movement since 2011, he noted.
Minds Incorporated is partnering with Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda to offer 30 minutes of weekly instruction for six weeks during English classes, reaching 750 students in all grades.
"Our belief is that social and emotional learning should be offered in schools as a subject," Trachtenberg said, "because there's a huge lack in treating the student as a whole child.
"Mindfulness prepares the brain to be ready for learning, and not in some fluffy way. Neuroscience studies have proved it aids in multitasking and leads to better test scores and study habits," he said. And it also gives the mind a rest.
"Mindfulness is like turning a knob and letting stress slip away," he said.