Calmer Choice was founded in 2010 as a grassroots effort by a group of Cape Cod parents and community members concerned about the well-being of local youth and the rise in opioid addiction in the area. It is a mindfulness-based prevention program that integrates with SEL education and is currently available to Cape Cod public schools and communities. Its aim is to teach stress management, self-control, and conflict resolution to elementary, middle, and high school students, while increasing compassion and resilience.
Lessons focus on brain science, stress physiology, the five senses, body awareness, mind-body connection, emotional awareness, perspective, optimism, and understanding. The goal is to direct attention toward experience, i.e., breath, listening, kindness, gratitude, and happiness, and to rewire pathways of attention by increasing concentration and emotional regulation.
The program is designed as an 8-week course. It is implemented 20 minutes per day, twice a week for elementary school, and 45 minutes a day, once a week for middle and high school. Educators at participating schools are instructed in a 40-hour classroom training, which includes experiential exercises and engaged activities plus 28-hours of observation/student teaching in the classroom with mentoring and coaching.
According to its website, “[through a research] partnership with MIT and the Harvard School of Education, Calmer Choice students were involved in the first study ever conducted using brain scans with youth that provides scientific evidence that a school-delivered mindfulness-based program can enhance attention and reduce stress. MIT researchers found Calmer Choice effectively enhances sustained attention in middle-school students and positively changes brain connectivity, as well as reduces amygdala reactivity to fear and stress” (Calmer Choice, 2018).
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker approved $50,000 in state funding for Calmer Choice, recognizing its leadership in substance abuse prevention.
Calmer Choice has been implemented in 28 schools and 12 community-based organizations, reaching more than 20,000 students and 1,000 teachers. Researchers from Tufts, Yale, MIT, and Harvard universities have studied the impact of the program on over 2,000 students.
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