Brooklyn College Academy debuts new space dedicated to mindfulness

Linda Noble has seen firsthand the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom.

Since introducing practices like breathing exercises two years ago in her ninth grade social studies class at Brooklyn College Academy (BCA), a public high school on the border of Kensington and Flatbush, students now “crave it before exams,” she said. In addition to helping reduce stress, it’s impacted the culture of the school.

“The relationship between myself and my students, and the relationship between students and their peers has become more compassionate,” Noble said. “Mindfulness provides us strategies for mindful speaking and mindful listening.”

Now, more students at the school will have the chance to experience the practice through BCA’s new mindfulness center.

The space became a reality thanks in part to a $10,000 grant from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, ThriveNYC and the Fund for Public Health in New York City. Earlier this year, BCA was one of 15 schools to win the Mental Health by Design in Schools Award, which recognized projects that address mental health needs in schools, from gardens to therapeutic rooms like BCA’s.

“The current literature shows that students who engage in mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, it improves their resilience to stress and cognitive performance. Studies also showed improved social-emotional regulation,” said Kelli Peterman, a prevention and community support specialist for NYC DOHMH’s Bureau of Children, Youth and Families. “We heard from BCA in their application that stress was one of the main challenges that students were facing. This seemed like a no-brainer, to have a meditation room.”

BCA teamed up with MNDFL Ed., the new nonprofit arm of MNDFL, to build the space and curriculum. Using the same designer MNDFL uses for its meditation studios, the school converted a fourth-floor storage closet into a meditation room, with new floors and lighting, painted walls and shelves for shoes. BCA also trained two teachers through MNDFL Ed.

“Our mission is to introduce mindfulness courses in underserved schools,” said Cathy Trentalancia, managing director of MNDFL Ed. “In New York City, kids are so stressed. I think [meditation] calms everyone down. They feel safer.”

The space debuted last week and will host two classes on Mondays as part of a college readiness course.

Noble already has designs to expand its offerings. She applied for Farmers Insurance’s Thank America’s Teachers Dream Big Teacher Challenge and is among 15 national finalists vying for one of five $100,000 awards. The public can vote on the projects daily through Oct. 30.

If Noble wins, she’d like to add lunchtime and afterschool hours, increase professional development for teachers and conduct research so that other schools can have a mindfulness center of their own.

“We really envision it becoming a hub and network for teacher training,” Noble said. “Once we get funding, we can get real outcome data so the Department of Education could cookie-cutter this into other schools.”