“Our aim is to test – using the best scientific methods – a health education curriculum that is up to date on skills children need for the coming world, and that can have important impact on school engagement and achievement, mental and physical health, and long-term well-being,” Patrick Tolan, project leader and professor and director of Youth-Nex, U.Va.’s center to promote effective youth development, associated with the Curry School of Education, told WVIR-TV in Charlottesville.
The Compassionate Schools Project will offer “a 21st-century health curriculum,” which includes “mindfulness for stress management and self-control; contemplative movements for physical awareness and agility, nutrition knowledge for healthy eating, and social and emotional skills for effective interpersonal relationships,” for all K-5 students in 25 schools by fall 2016. It is being preceded by an introductory year in three schools.
Twenty-five other schools will participate in the research as control schools, where the existing “practical living” curriculum will remain in effect. The Virginia researchers will evaluate the impact of the curriculum for six years, which is expected to include more than 10,000 students.
According to the researchers, “the ability to implement this curriculum at such a large scale will provide sound evidence of how the curriculum works, for whom, and in what areas of academic, behavioral and emotional well-being over the course of several years.”
The program was created by the U.Va. in partnership with the Sonima Foundation and with support from the Hemera Foudation, and is funded by private donors.