Title

Preparing Preschoolers for School Readiness Through a Mindfulness Intervention Program

Location

Harborside Center East and West

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

This project encompasses the “Head” and “Health”, strands I and II, in enhancing the executive functioning of preschoolers through a mindfulness intervention program. The research is designed to provide preschoolers with tools and tasks to regulate their attention, emotions, and actions that will promote school readiness that these children may use beyond the study.

Brief Program Description

This research uses a new mindfulness intervention program for preschoolers of a state funded Pre-K program to investigate (a) whether a mindfulness meditation program is feasible in this age group and setting, and (b) if the mindfulness intervention program increases executive functioning in preschoolers.

Summary

Mindfulness is a state of enhanced attention to and awareness of present events and experience (Brown & Ryan, 2003). It can be strengthened through practice and the benefits of being mindful are widespread across human functioning (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007). Research suggests that increased mindfulness leads to cognitive and emotional benefits in adults and adolescents (Gould, Dariotis, Mendelson, & Greenberg, 2012), however, little work examines mindfulness in preschool-aged children. Therefore, the current research investigating a mindfulness intervention program for preschool children at a state lottery funded Pre-K program will be beneficial for educators. Four different mindfulness tasks used in empirically-supported adult treatment programs have been adapted to be relevant to preschoolers. The four tasks, which touch on different components of mindfulness, will be completed over the course of 8 weeks (with each task being repeated once). In addition to the mindfulness intervention program, the teachers of the pre-K participants will complete an adapted version of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) to assess age-relevant behaviors indicative of mindfulness by a third party. The teachers will also complete the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Preschool Version (BRIEF-P). Executive functioning (EF) and the BRIEF-P will be measured for this construct. Two behavioral measures of EF will also be assessed by a common children’s game-- Red-Light, Green-Light, and also with a measure of delayed gratification called the Marshmallow Task (Mishel, Ebbeson, & Raskoff, 1972). Children will be coded on performance of the Red-Light, Green-Light game by observers blind to hypotheses, and will also be timed on how long they can delay eating a marshmallow presented to them. The BRIEF-P, adapted FFMQ, Red-Light Green-light Game, and Marshmallow Task will be administered pre- and post-intervention . The findings will be shared at the conference.

Evidence

Several current studies have investigated the impacts of mindfulness and teaching mindfulness to children in school settings (Black & Fernando, 2014; Burke, 2009; Flook et al, 2010; Gould, Dariotis, Mendelson, & Greenberg, 2012; Greenberg & Harris, 2012). Gould et al. (2012) studied fourth and fifth graders with a yoga-inspired intervention program and found that stress levels were lower in children who underwent the mindfulness intervention. Greenberg and Harris (2012) had a similar intervention program for second and third graders that included short meditative practices that focused on breath and movement-based activities. This research found positive effects on executive functioning for the children who were participants in the experimental group. A particular strength of this study was its objective measure of executive functioning skills, which has been incorporated into the current study. Black and Fernando (2013) discussed a curriculum called Mindful Schools that implemented a 5-week long program that included mindful awareness practices for children in kindergarten through fifth grades. This intervention program found significant improvements in paying attention, self control, participation in activities, and respect for others. Flook et al. (2010) conducted an 8-week intervention study that consisted of mindful awareness practices for children who were seven to nine years of age. Results from this study suggested improvements in behavioral regulation, metacognition, overall executive functioning as defined in the BRIEF-P, and specific domains of executive functioning decided by teacher and parental reports. The proposed study integrates these different findings into one study that evaluates an 8-week intervention program which will induce mindfulness through mindful awareness practices; measures mindfulness and executive functioning objectively through teacher ratings and blind observers’ coding of child behavior, and has a sample age group that has not been extensively studied. The detailed results and implications of this mindfulness intervention program for preschoolers will be discussed further at the conference.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Candace Cosnahan is a Senior Psychology major at Georgia College. She is involved in a Developmental Research Lab that studies social and emotional competence in at-risk three and four year old children using an empathy training program. Within this lab, she also has interests including how social and emotional competence is influenced by the presence of siblings. Candace is also a member of a Social Research Lab studying mindfulness; Her interests within this topic of study include inducing mindfulness and examining how it impacts a person's life physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. Her future plans are to integrate her interests in children and mindfulness in graduate school.

Whitney L. Heppner is an Assistant Professor of Psychological Science at Georgia College. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Georgia, and she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Cancer Prevention Research Training Program in Health Disparities Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Heppner’s research explores the role of trait mindfulness and induced states of mindfulness in cognitive functioning, psychological well-being, and the pursuit of health goals such as smoking cessation.

Tsu-Ming Chiang, Ph.D., Professor of Psychological Science, has been teaching at the Georgia College & State University (GC&SU) for 21 years. Dr. Chiang received her Ph.D. from University of Wyoming in Developmental Psychology in 1992. She has devoted her research in understanding children’s social emotional development and parental-child relationships for the past 25 years. She conducted several cross-cultural studies on parental beliefs and children’s social emotions in response to infraction of standards. An article entitled “Maternal attributions of Taiwanese and American toddlers’ misdeeds and accomplishments”, was published in the Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 2000. Dr. Chiang’s primary research is to examine how to improve young children’s social emotional competence in preschools and in the Head Start programs that serves underprivileged children. She received the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2006 and Undergraduate Research Mentor awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014. She establishes a laboratory in a community Early Learning Center where she connects college students to work with children in the community. One of the major goals for her research and teaching is to promote children’s social and emotional competence.

Ashley Anderson is a senior undergraduate psychology major at Georgia College & State University. This is her second year working in a developmental psychology lab that focuses on empathy training, social emotional competence, and early literacy in three and four year olds. She is especially interested in how religious views and family relationships affect one’s social emotional competence. Ashley plans to further her education by pursuing a Pastoral Counseling degree, and looks forward to using her experience and knowledge with empathy training and emotional competence to enhance her career.

Amber Bowen is a senior undergraduate student at Georgia College & State University. Currently she is working with a research team that is involved in an empathy training program for three and four year old at-risk children. Amber is also involved in another lab, which studies the social issues of at-risk youth, specifically focused on academic utility. Amber is interested in becoming a special education, pre–K, or kindergarten teacher in hopes of enriching the lives of at-risk children. Amber plans to further her education by attending graduate school in hopes of earning a master’s degree in early childhood education or special education.

Keyword Descriptors

mindfulness, executive functioning, school readiness, intervention

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-3-2015 4:00 PM

End Date

3-3-2015 5:30 PM

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Mar 3rd, 4:00 PM Mar 3rd, 5:30 PM

Preparing Preschoolers for School Readiness Through a Mindfulness Intervention Program

Harborside Center East and West

This research uses a new mindfulness intervention program for preschoolers of a state funded Pre-K program to investigate (a) whether a mindfulness meditation program is feasible in this age group and setting, and (b) if the mindfulness intervention program increases executive functioning in preschoolers.