BRUNSWICK, Ohio– Imagine an elementary school filled with students so quiet you can hear a pin drop. It might seem hard to believe, but it’s reality twice a day inside Kidder Elementary School in Brunswick.
After the chaos of kids getting to class, all 350 students pause for Mindful Music Moments.
At the beginning and end of each school day, for a few minutes, the peaceful sounds of Cleveland Orchestra performances fill classrooms via the school’s PA system.
“I’m kind of a little stressed before school, and it just helps me relax,” said third grade student Antonio Musto.
In the mornings, students in each classroom then form a circle to talk about their feelings, sometimes ranking them on a scale from one to five.
“It immediately lets me know, this kid I need to check in with at lunch to make sure he’s feeling okay or this kid is going to need a little more extra attention from me today,” said third grade teacher Lea Ann Besancon.
She said though she was unsure of the program’s merits at first, she’s noticed an improvement in student behavior and academic performance. Besancon said one goal of the program is to foster lifelong mindfulness and meditation skills.
“I’m a total believer that this is what’s good for children, this is what’s best for kids and this will help them as they go through their lives,” she said.
The Mindful Music Moments program, a collaboration between the organization City Silence and several orchestras, including the Cleveland Orchestra, reports that it is being used in more than 100 schools, involving more than 50,000 students.
Kidder Elementary School Music Teacher Dorene Kebberly brought the program to her school this school year after discovering it online.
“I see so many times kids that just kind of lose it because they don’t know how to regulate their emotions, and I think music, I know music can do that,” Kebberly said.
Participation in Mindful Music Moments costs $1,000 per year, which includes training and supplies. After a grant request was rejected, Brunswick said the program is covering part of the cost this year.
Principal Bonnie Kubec said since the program was implemented, students are calmer and there has been a marked decrease in referrals for bad behavior.
“The teachers believe in it now. They see the value in taking a little bit of instructional time to meet those social, emotional needs and getting more bang for your buck when doing the academics,” Kubec said.
For students, it has nurtured new openness and understanding, making even difficult days a little more upbeat.
Besancon recalled one student who shared a tragic experience of a family member’s drug overdose during circle time, prompting other students to comfort him.
“If I’m having a bad day, someone can help me,” said third grade student Kiley Koval. “If they’re having a bad day I can help them.”