Bridging the Campus/Community Divide through Yoga: Surveying Student Experiences Delivering a  Yoga-Based Classroom Intervention

Original Research

Bridging the Campus/Community Divide through Yoga: Surveying Student Experiences Delivering a  Yoga-Based Classroom Intervention

Corresponding authorDr. Maryanna D. Klatt, Ph.D. Professor, Family Medicine, The Ohio State University College of Medicine Suite 250 Northwood-High Building # 261, 2231 North High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43201, Tel: 614-293-3644; Fax: 614-293-2715; E-mail: Maryanna.Klatt@osumc.edu
Abstract
Borne of a campus-community partnership formed to bring needed health and wellness initiatives from the campus to an adjacent inner-city, low socioeconomic status (SES) community, the overall aim of this study was to explore if yoga could serve as a point of connection between college students engaging in service learning and elementary students attending a local public school. An 8-week yoga program was designed to facilitate boundary crossing for the college and elementary students who live in close proximity yet in stark contrast to one another. Study objectives were twofold: 1. To enlarge college students’ awareness of the way in which stresses associated with low SES may impact classroom learning ; and 2. To expose college students to an innovative yoga-based stress reduction intervention, designed for classroom delivery, to reduce stress and develop coping skills for inner-city, low-SES elementary students. Qualitative pre-/post-intervention surveys revealed that the college students (n = 25) involved in the campus-community partnership felt that they had learned coping mechanisms from the inner-city 2nd graders (n = 78) they were to be “serving.” In addition, working with the 2nd graders sparked a passionate interest within many of the college students for future work with economically disadvantaged youth. This project utilized yoga as a neutral point of connection and inspired a diverse group of undergraduates in unforeseen ways that consequently proved to be on the cutting edge of service-learning pedagogy. It is a model that could benefit other universities engaging in campus-community partnerships.

Keywords: Yoga; Service Learning; Inner City; Stress Reduction Programming; Elementary Students; College Students

Introduction

Faculty in the College of Medicine had been invited to engage in a campus-community initiative to design stress reduction  programs for inner-city youth. The campus-community initiative identified “resiliency-building programming” as a needed skill that the university community could provide for the community partner. The 12-month design process of our intervention ignited an unexpected enthusiasm in the two faculty members involved in this initiative – as college professors and researchers, neither of us had previously ventured out to the inner city as the context for our research. We were transformed by the experience of being part of the campus-community exchange and we were shocked at the gap between the educational advantages the majority of our college students had enjoyed as compared to elementary students of inner-city schools. By accepting the invitation to design a resiliency-building program for inner-city youth, we saw an opportunity for our own college-aged students to engage with the surrounding community. The first author is a yoga teacher and researcher in an academic medical center who designs and validates the value of yoga programming for the worksite, while the senior author chaired the Occupational Therapy Department, whose clinical focus was the pediatric population. Joining forces we had previously designed and piloted a yoga-based stress reduction program for inner city youth [1], that yielded positive results for the inner city elementary classroom. We both had found a new professional passion and wanted to share our passion with the college students whom we taught on a day to day basis. In collaboration, we felt that we had found a translational context for our research that fulfilled an unforeseen gap in our work, addressing the stresses related to low socioeconomic status (SES) that impacted the elementaryclassroom. As researchers, we wanted to explore if college students would be driven to engage in boundary crossing that we, as academics, knew had enlarged and enriched our own personal and professional lives during the preceding 12 months of our own campus- community interaction.

Inner-City Youth and Yoga-Based Stress Reduction Programming: Move-Into-Learning

Given our experience in the campus-community partnership, we found the inner city to be a fertile ground for stress reduction research, holding the potential to impact a multitude of lives in a meaningful way. As evidenced by research relating low-SES families and childhood experiences of stress, there is a pressing need for stress-reduction programs that can provide coping mechanisms for these economically disadvantaged students [2]. A yoga-based stress reduction program was designed with the intention of becoming a means by which boundary crossing could occur for college and elementary students alike. This program, Move-Into-Learning, was designed as an intervention to help inner-city, low-SES students overcome some of the challenges associated with the multitude of stressors faced both inside and outside their academic day, with the added goal of exposing college students to the challenges that these young children face.

For many inner-city, low-SES children, facing high levels of stress and experiencing its negative social, emotional, and educational consequences is not uncommon. Children raised  in low-SES neighborhoods often grapple with heavy financial, environmental, and family-related stressors, such as poverty, unhealthy living conditions, and violence in the home and neighborhood [3]. These stressors have been associated with poorer social competence, emotion regulation, and self-image all of which negatively impact students’ abilities to engage and learn in the classroom setting [4]. The experience of stressful home and family situations, associated with poor nutritional intake, lack of exercise, and disrupted sleep, is further linked to difficulty with appropriate behavior and attending to schoolwork[ 5-7]. In particular, children hailing from low-SES families demonstrate greater likelihood of having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [8]. Thus, the need for stress-reduction programming that provides coping skills for these children is apparent, and such programs may prove to be a vital factor in the academic success of these students[2].

The program design of Move-Into-Learning was based on research from various inter-related fields. Educational research has demonstrated that proactive measures are the most effective in managing problem behaviors such as defiance and disruption in school/community settings[9]. Neuroscience research has identified arousal and attention regulation as foundational elements of sensory integration[10] and, in conjunction, mindfulness meditation research suggests that mindfulness training is an effective tool for increasing attention regulation in children[11]. Preventative/proactive treatment techniques to improve children’s arousal and attention have included both yoga and mindfulness. Yoga, developed thousands of years ago, utilizes breathing techniques, postures, and relaxation along with meditation to change the physiology of the body[12]. Research has shown that experiencing enhanced sensory input through yoga and sensory integration activities has beneficial effects on children’s ability to focus, concentrate, and attend[12,13]. Stueck and Gloeckner (2005)  eported that when yoga was combined with relaxation techniques, it reduced feelings of helplessness and fear, decreased aggression and negativity, and improved overall feelings of well-being. Meditation and mindfulness training have been shown to be effective ways to help children reduce their anxiety, develop positive affect, and learn from their environment, while more recently, mindful yoga has effectively been used to impact long-term self-regulation with 6th grade students[14].

The program design of Move-Into-Learning integrated music, writing, and visual art into yoga practice, and placed particular focus upon yoga movement and breathing as means by which students could connect to their bodies and minds. In addition, the program emphasized introducing these techniques in ways appropriate to the levels and needs of the students; for instance, yoga poses and breathing techniques incorporated animal imagery (e.g. monkeys and lions). Further information regarding the structure and components of Move-Into-Learning is detailed elsewhere[1], as have program outcomes for the participating elementary students, including significant improvement in behaviors such as hyperactivity (t[1,39 = 3.1; p = 0.002), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder index (t[1,39] = 5.42; p < 0.001) and cognitive/inattentiveness (t[1,39] = 5.56; p < 0.001). Move-Into-Learning was determined to be feasibly implemented with strong piloted outcomes in the inner- city classroom. Thus, the present study replicated the initial Move-Into-Learning intervention while evaluating different outcomes: outcome measures of this study examined the role that the yoga practice occupied as a primary point of connection between the college and elementary students.

Children in suburban schools have opportunities to learn yoga and/or participate in sports and may be exposed to innovative wellness programs that include yoga/meditation, while students in urban, low-income neighborhoods often do not share in these same opportunities. A 2015 national report states that children aged 4-17 of poor and near-poor families demonstrated less use of complementary health approaches – including yoga, meditation, and relaxation – than those of not-poor families (7.0% and 8.0% vs. 14.9%, respectively). In particular, children of Hispanic and African-American race reported much less complementary approach utilization than their non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic other race peers – 6.1% and 5.5% vs. 14.9% and 14.2%, respectively)[15]. In a population of adults, a recent study [16] pointed out that there are sociodemographic barriers that limit mindfulness programs (which include yoga components) for low-income adults; those with low education levels and those of  Hispanic or non-Hispanic black race/ethnicity were much less likely to engage in such practices, thus not reaping the available benefits. Our goal was to introduce Move-Into-Learning early in the lives of children at an economically challenged school so that the finding of the formerly mentioned study would potentially be different when these children became adults.

Earlier published results of Move-Into-Learning in a similar classroom setting detail that elementary students reported increased feelings of calmness, improved behavior control, and a more positive self-concept after participating in the 8-week program. Quantitative results exploring the effectiveness of Move-Into-Learning on students of lower socioeconomic status using The Connor’s Teacher Rating Scale-Revised [Short form] (CTRS-R:S) observed a decrease in the ADHD index, which was maintained two months post intervention, along with significant improvements in cognitive inattention[1], showing the benefit of this program for the elementary students. These quantitative results were supplemented with semi-structured teacher surveys which confirmed increased focus and relaxation, decrease in disruptive behaviors, and evidence of learned coping mechanisms among students. The teachers also reported that they personally benefited from the Move-Into-Learning intervention implemented in the classroom, which promoted calmness for both themselves and the children. With such a myriad of positive results among urban teachers and students, we were interested in the possible service learning outcomes for the university students becoming involved with this yoga-based program intended to encourage calm alertness in inner-city, low-SES elementary students.

Service Learning in Higher Education

In our attempt to introduce such a program in the inner city, an experiential, service-learning opportunity presented itself. To enable the implementation of Move-Into-Learning, undergraduates from a variety of disciplines (including education, medicine, music, nursing, nutrition, and psychology, among thers) became part of a service-learning initiative, by helping  to implement the Move-Into-Learning program in a low SES elementary school adjacent to the university campus. College students heard about this opportunity via word of mouth and requested to be involved in this project. None of these college students received academic credit for their participation in this campus-community partnership. This research was a complex and messy adventure, as neither the faculty researchers, nor the service-learning college students (n = 25) involved with the project, were prepared for the disruptive behavior present in the classroom, nor the extent to which both the faculty and college students became engaged with the 2nd graders (n = 78), further igniting our motivation to make Move-Into-Learning a positive contribution to the campus-community partnership.

While the typical goal of service learning is to provide useful resources to an underserved population, research shows that service learning experiences can positively impact all parties involved, especially the students administering the service. Service-learning provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to apply material learned in the classroom to a practical setting. A multitude of studies have shown that service learning fosters personal growth and development in college students[17], leading to improved communication[18] and leadership skills, increased self-efficacy and personal effectiveness[ 19], development of social literacy[20] and civic responsibility[ 21].

Founded in this greater sense of civic responsibility, students have also reported deeper intentions to become involved in future service activity [22,23]. Prior research in service-learning observed personal/social development and increased expression of empathy in university students[24]. Additionally, a study by Kearney [25] suggested that service-learning may be a useful tool in helping to educate students about diverse demographics, as students in that study were better able to understand and effectively communicate with the specific population with whom they worked. Service-learning experience also leads to a significant increase in level of community awareness, including the ability to identify healthcare and social services available to certain populations. These findings have great implications for students seeking to enter a variety of fields, including healthcare, education, public health, and social work, where student/patient-specific care and social literacy are essential. A meta-analysis of the service-learning literature found significant positive effects on understanding of social issues, in addition to positive effects on cognitive development in students with service-learning experience[20]. With particular relevance to Move-Into-Learning, recent research also suggests that utilizing mindfulness-based contemplative practices in discussions of diversity and oppression helps students to become more aware of their own social locations[26] .

Based upon research corroborating the efficacy of yoga-based interventions in the inner-city classroom setting, as well as research that points to the deepening of student-community connections by engaging in service learning, the focus of the present study was to examine the impact of a service-learning activity centered on college students volunteering to help implement the yoga based intervention Move-Into-Learning.

Method

Research Design and Participants

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the Ohio State University. The study was based in the theory and practice of Ernest Stringer’s [27]approach to educational research, using action research to address the stated study objectives. Action research refers to investigative skills that engage in systematic approaches to inquiry in order to “formulate effective and sustainable solutions to the deep-rooted problems that diminish the quality of professional life” (p. 3). The role of the researcher in action research is not that of an expert, but rather, of a catalyst (p. 25). The essence of the work in action research is process, enabling people to develop their own analysis of the issue being explored. The intent of this research was to invite the service-learning students to be catalysts and explorers related to their own learning by implementing a yoga-based stress reduction intervention, exposing them to a diverse population with economic stress challenges different than their own.

Move-Into-Learning was implemented in three inner-city 2nd grade classrooms in a low-SES neighborhood. The elementary school principal specifically requested that the intervention take place in 2ndgrade classrooms due to student behavior problems that she felt showed up in the academic classroom by the time the children reached 2nd grade. The issues she detailed included inability to focus, disruptive behavior, and general hyperarousal resulting in difficulty in learning. The public school housing these classrooms held the designation of ‘Academic Emergency’ by the school district, and was among the most economically disadvantaged in the area. The study took place in this particular school district because of the high potential for Move-Into-Learning to positively impact students given previous results with low SES students [1] and due to its close proximity to the service-learning college students.

The programs took place over a span of two academic years, and each Move-Into-Learning session lasted 8 weeks in duration. Faculty and service-learning students conducted weekly 45-minute sessions, while the classroom teacher sustained the practice via a CD four times per week during the 8-week session, such that the 2nd graders participated in the Move-Into- Learning program every school day for 8 weeks. Children with behavior and/or attention problems were identified by the teacher prior to the beginning of the 8-week session, and each of these 2nd graders was then assigned a college student as a “special helper”. The “special helpers” gave these pre-identified 2nd graders extra attention and helped them stay on task with the Move-Into-Learning weekly sessions. The total number of elementary students who participated in the study was 78, spread out over three 2nd grade classrooms in an inner-city school. Of these participants, approximately half were girls and half were boys; the racial majority was African-American.

The service-learning college students were all undergraduates at a large academic institution. Students learned of the study through announcements made by one of the university department and approached the researchers to participate of their own accord. The total number of service-learning college students in the study was 25 and were largely female (n=18). Students represented a diverse array of majors, including education, medicine, music, nursing, nutrition, and psychology, with equally varying levels of experience working with children, especially in the inner city. Both researchers were faculty at this same institution, whose previous interactions with these college students were limited as the students came from a variety of departments within the University. The researchers adopted the roles of both participant and observer over the course of the study, and reflexivity was maintained while interacting with the college students by continuous analysis and discussion about assumptions made during data collection.

Data collection

To measure the impact of service-learning on college student participants, qualitative data was collected from the university students before, during, and after participation. Students (n=25) attended a pre-service-learning introduction to provide baseline pre-exposure data to inner-city health and wellness initiatives. Pre-intervention questionnaires were given to the university students at this time. Questions and responses are included in Table 1. In addition, travel time to and from the service site provided opportunity for candid and lively discussion of issues plaguing the urban low SES population, while one faculty researcher drove while the other collected field notes during transportation to/from the research location each week. Additionally, emails exchanged between service-learning students  and the two university faculty during the 8-week intervention echoed student impressions, problems, concerns, and victories. Classroom teachers also communicated via email and phone with the researchers. Student-faculty communication before, during, and after the intervention provided an opportunity for directed reflection for the service-learning students. Specifically, the post-intervention questionnaires included directed reflection through seven prompts about the student’s service-learning experience assisting researchers deliver the yoga intervention. Completion of this directed reflection was optional for the service-learning participants; however, 88% of the college students completed the questionnaires. Questionnaire data and field notes were deemed the most appropriate means of data collection for this study as they allowed for students to verbalize their service learning experiences through both self-reflection and open, collaborative discussion. Upon collection, the college students’ questionnaire responses were anonymized, with only primary researchers having access to raw data. Trustworthiness of these data was assessed and enhanced by relating the content of emails exchanged between the elementary school teacher and researchers to student responses.

Data analysis

Participant responses and researcher field notes were collated and analyzed for common themes by two graduate research assistants. Similar responses to questionnaire prompts were grouped together until saturation, which researchers defined as the point at which no new themes emerged from response analysis. In addition, emails exchanged between the 2nd grade classroom teachers and faculty researchers triangulated both the benefits of Move-Into-Learning on their students’ behavior as well as the impact that the service-learning college students had on the elementary students.

Results

Pre-Intervention Questionnaire

A majority of the service-learning college students (n = 13, 61.9%) had no previous experience working with inner-city youth, and all participants came from socioeconomic backgrounds radically different than the school children with whom we worked. This was a motivating factor for participation in the project: “I want to work with inner city/underserved populations and I want to see how yoga/meditation might impact their behavior, or if it will.

Fifty percent of the college students had prior knowledge and experience with mind/body techniques such as yoga and meditation, and for some, this was the initial motivating factor drawing them into this project: One student commented, “I’m interested in serving the community, especially in the schools. I have enjoyed the benefits of yoga/meditation and am eager to share these stress-reducing techniques with others who may not be exposed to these techniques.” The college students also expressed a desire to learn if mind-body approaches would be accepted in an inner-city educational environment, both by the 2nd graders and the cooperating teacher. See Table 1 for a summary of pre-intervention questions and responses of the college students.

Table 1. Pre- Intervention Survey Data Summary.

Field notes

In addition to the pre-intervention surveys, rich data was garnered in the form of researcher field notes during the transport time to/from the intervention location. When asked what they hoped to learn from the experience, most of the college students’ responses circled around 1) increasing their exposure to children, 2) becoming involved in community service, and 3) learning about the factors and interventions that can make a difference in the lives of children socioeconomically at risk: “I hope to gain more insight into the problems facing these children on a day-to-day basis, so in my future career I can be more readily able to address them when working with children.” A majority of the college students hoped to learn more about working with children and wanted to use yoga in either their future career or for self-help, for themselves, or to share with others. There was an underlying sense that it was a social justice activity to bring a yoga-based stress reduction program to the inner-city elementary classroom, exemplified by the statement, “I want to share what my younger siblings are doing in their classrooms. I know these inner-city kids don’t get the advantages that we have in the suburbs we come from”.

The service-learning college students expressed less anxieties associated with working in an economically low SES group than expected by the researchers. The chief concern was being able to respond appropriately to behaviors that 2nd graders might exhibit and to effectively use discipline to engage them, challenging the college students to adapt to the needs of the children. Of noteworthy interest was that the college students who chose to participate in this project did, in fact, want exposure to an economically disadvantaged population, for the purpose of discerning future career prospects: “I have considered working with this population and this experience will help me to decide if it is right for me.”

In addition, the research nature of the project was especially appealing to those students invested in expanding holistic, yoga-based educational programs such as Move-Into-Learning  to society at large: “[Through the research]I hope to learn about the affects[sic]of this program on the students as well as gain insight to community attitude about integrative approaches to wellness. I want to work on programs that address prevention – especially for this population that often doesn’t  get preventative programs!” 

Table 2. Post-Survey Qualitative Data Summary.

Post-Intervention Questionnaire

Questionnaire responses post-intervention indicated that the service learning college students most enjoyed how yoga brought them and the 2nd graders together, referencing how the elementary students looked forward to doing yoga with them, the behavioral changes that the elementary students exhibited over the course of Move-Into-Learning, and the enthusiasm the 2nd graders displayed while learning yoga sequences: “I loved watching them light up with fascination whenever we came over to bring them to the yoga room…Seeing how the kids exploded with an ‘Oh boy, her [here] we go on another adventure!’ when we came over to get them was always my favorite part of the day.

Post-intervention questionnaire responses also reflected changes in the college students’ career interests since the beginning of the study. Prior to participation, an overwhelming majority of the university students expressed future career interests in either health care, working with children, or a combination of the two. Post-intervention reports by the students described how the experience challenged the college students to expand their future career goals to include the use of yoga, in particular, with many reporting a desire to explore integrative health approaches/research opportunities with inner city populations after the completion of the project. See Table 2.

Discussion

Prior research has detailed the impact of yoga programming for inner-city, low-SES elementary children and the potential that yoga-based interventions have for providing powerful coping and behavioral management skills[3,28]. Yet, research on the impact of having college students help in the implementation of such programming, in particular, could not be located in the literature. This gap was addressed in the current study. Why were college students drawn to participate in this program? Based upon pre-intervention responses, it was evident that many of the student participants were intrinsically motivated – either by an interest in working with children or, specifically, by an interest in yoga interventions. Advertisement was not conducted to attract college students; the participants requested to be included in the campus/community project after hearing about it via word of mouth. Post-session qualitative responses were very rich and served as a necessary means of reflective processing for the college students.

Service-learning participation was high throughout the three sessions, gaining momentum as the project progressed – evidenced by the growth in service-learning students from 5 college students in the first session, 8 in the 2nd, to 12 college students by the 3rd session – with these students actively engaged each Friday afternoon for 8 weeks. The college students were challenged to remain patient with the 2nd graders while also finding a way to motivate and encourage them to remain engaged in the yoga practice. Hearing the 2nd graders’ accounts of their home lives proved to be emotionally challenging as well. Though not explicitly mentioned in post intervention responses, the college students’ articulated (present in field notes) their understanding of how demographic factors – particularly socioeconomic status– could affect learning opportunities in the classroom environment. From a college student who had not previously worked with inner-city children, “The [elementary students] did not seem to be any different at all from any other kid I have met. They played around like the kids I played with in the Jungle gyms at Korea. They laughed and made jokes the same way I used to in elementary school. In fact, I would argue that those kids were some of the most mature kids I have ever met…However, it seemed very clear that these kids did not have the same opportunities as I did when I was growing up. I wished that they had more chances to express their creativity. Maybe someday I will find a way to help kids like that get more chances to experience new things.” The most common  realization voiced was that of the neediness of the 2ndgraders for at tention: “The 2nd graders craved attention and were creative in their ways to receive attention, making it very difficult (for meespecially) to know how to react towards them. Even though I wasn’t 100% confident in what I was doing all the time, I had to make quick, decisive actions in order to help the student stay on task and achieve the goals of the program.

Student post intervention responses also indicated their changed attitudes towards working with inner-city, low-SES populations through their experiences with Move-Into-Learning. For a college student pursuing a career in education, “This experience gave me an opportunity to consider how I would have to respond to situations where the students are not getting everything they need at home, and are facing greater challenges in reaching their educational goals.” In this respect, working with this specific population of elementary students added another dimension to the project by increasing the college students’ social awareness and enhancing their appreciation of their own situations. The college students recognized the importance of being role models to the 2nd graders, and in response, took this responsibility quite seriously, acting as a source of support and stability for these younger students. Almost every participant voiced a similar thought as this one: “I think I gave my student an older figure she could rely on. She was always excited to see me and come to yoga. She was also very responsive to mysuggestions even when she began to ‘check-out’ mentally. I think that was because I treated her with respect.”

When asked to comment on three things the service-learning participants gained from being such an integral part of the project, most mentioned: 1) learning how to control disruptive behavior by facilitating a yoga-based stress reduction intervention for children; 2) their enlarged perception of the myriad of factors that impact classroom learning; and 3) a realization of how socioeconomic disadvantage impacts all aspects of learning. Interestingly, all of the participants noted how happy they felt when their 2nd-grade “buddy” appeared excited to see them. An overwhelming majority of the college students felt that they were able to make a real impact in the lives of the 2nd graders with whom they worked, as evidenced by the responses found in Table 2. Field notes made by the researchers during the transport time and emails exchanged throughout the 8 weeks of each intervention revealed the depth of learning that the college students obtained through participation in the project that was not evident via the post-intervention survey responses: “I realized they had something to teach me. Theymade it through each day and I looked at them and thought, how do they do it?” The collaborative benefit involved in the service-learning experience was strikingly evident in college participant reflections, affirming that they realized the learning was a reciprocal exchange. Such reflective practice embodies the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendation that undergraduates take part in service-learning as a means to gain public health literacy [29] and to experience the reciprocal learning that is always possible in collaborative relationships. Grounded in the campus-community programming, it was clear in this study that the inner-city children and the service-learning college students had learned coping skills from one another via their joint participation in the yoga program. This was an unexpected outcome, as the initial focus had been the health and wellness intention – the campus providing the inner-city participants with resiliency-building techniques. The authors of this study consider this to be an unforeseen outcome that other universities could be especially attentive to in various service learning experiences, addressing the question of who is helping whom? In the present study, it was evident that the inner-city children had definitely become familiar with yoga as a mind/ body technique that was helpful to them, and it was also clear that the college students had learned that yoga was a vehicle of bridging the campus/community divide.

Collaborating classroom teachers triangulated the benefits of the program in emails exchanged with the research faculty, “The children were given strategies through Move-Into-Learning to examine their thinking, relax, and pay attention to the important lessons your body may be telling you. They developed these strategies through engaging in the yoga. They would close their eyes and take a deep breath. This allowed them to come back down and it worked. I feel like these abilities became a part of them, and I think it will aide [sic] them in their homes and on the street.” The classroom teachers were cognizant that the service-learning students were a central part of the program and shared their appreciation with these students, reinforcing that the yoga project impacted school attendance: “Attendance improved the day that the university students came. The 2nd graders wanted to see what they would be doing, and who came along that week from the university.”

Conclusion

Previously published results indicated that the yoga based program, Move-Into-Learning successfully taught elementary students coping mechanisms that they applied inside and outside of the classroom[30], while classroom teachers valued the usefulness of the classroom intervention to help students better attend to academic content[1]. The college students were actively engaged in exploring the impact of low socioeconomic status on classroom environment and were given opportunities to process their learning by helping deliver a yoga program to the elementary students. This project enacted three factors considered critical for student engagement: student-faculty interaction, active and collaborative learning, and experiences outside the classroom [31].

Move-Into-Learning provided a yoga-based stress reduction program that helped inner-city 2nd graders learn coping strategies, while the service-learning college students were able to explore issues of inner city neighborhoods and the associated
stresses for elementary students. These college students were immersed in a service-learning experience with socioeconom ically disadvantaged 2nd graders, and in the process, learned a great deal from the 2nd graders while at the same time exposing these young students to a set of innovative coping skills grounded in yoga practice.

Move-Into-Learning was at once a community service endeavor, a research project attempting to expand knowledge about innovative mind/body yoga programs to help nurture our children and families in high-risk neighborhoods, and a creative spark for the service-learning participants. The current economic distress faced by our nation as a whole has an even greater negative impact for those most disadvantaged. Research exploring health and wellness initiatives that can help this population is warranted and important, calling for the necessary involvement of service-learning participants. Bringing innovative stress prevention programs that provide preventative coping skills to inner-city classrooms, is a prudent way to teach to service-learning college students the importance of public health initiatives [29], lighting their internal fire to work towards social change. This project transformed and motivated a group of undergraduates in unforeseen ways. Additionally, it proved to be on the cutting edge of service- learning pedagogy and could serve as a model for other universities that engage in campus-community partnerships by utilizing yoga programs.

Acknowledgements

The first author would like to acknowledge the honorable work and life of Jane Case-Smith, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA, who passed away suddenly in the summer of 2014.

 

References

1.Klatt M, Harpster K, Browne E, White S, Case-Smith J. Feasibility and preliminary outcomes for Move-Into-Learning: An arts-based mindfulness classroom intervention. J Pos Psychol. 2013, 8(3): 233-241.

2.Diamond A, Lee K. Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science. 2011, 333(6045): 959-964.

3.Harper J. Teaching yoga in urban elementary schools. Int J Yoga Therap 2010, 20(1): 99-109.

4. Malecki C, Elliot S. Children’s social behaviors as predictors of academic achievement: A longitudinal analysis. Sch Psychol Q. 2002, 17(1): 1-23.

5. Basch CE. Healthier students are better learners: A missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap. J Sch Health. 2011, 81(10): 593-598.

6. Burney J, Haughton B. EFNEP: a nutrition education program that demonstrates cost- benefit. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002, 102(1): 39-45.

7. Dollahite J, Olson C, Scott‐Pierce M. The impact of nutrition education on food insecurity ‘among low‐income participants in EFNEP. Family and Consummer Sciences Research Journal. 2003, 32(2): 127-139.

8. Russell AE, Ford T, Williams R, Russell G. The association between socioeconomic disadvantage and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a systematic review. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2016, 47(3): 440-458.

9. Horner RH, Carr EG, Strain PS, Todd AW, Reed HK. Problem Behavior Interventions for Young Children with Autism: A Research
Synthesis. J Autism Dev Disord. 2002, 32(5): 423-426.

10.Reeves G: From neuron to behavior: Regulations, arousal, and attention as important substrates for the process of sensory integration. In Understanding the nature of sensory integration with diverse populations. 1st edition. Edited by Roley S, Blanche E, Schaaf R. San Antonio: Therapy Skills Builders; 2001: 89-108.

11.Semple R, Reid E, Miller L. Treating anxiety with mindfulness: an open trial of mindfulness training for anxious children. J Cogn Psychother 2005, 19(4): 379-393.

12.Jensen PS, Kenny DT. The effects of yoga on the attention and behavior of boys with Attention-Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). J Of Atten Disorders 2004, 7(4): 205-216.

13.Manjunath NK, Telles S.Spatial and verbal memory test scores following yoga and fine arts camps for school children. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2004, 48(3): 353-356.

14. Bergen-Cico D, Razza R, Timmins A. Fostering self-regulation through curriculum infusion of mindful yoga: a pilot study of efficacy and feasibility. J Child Fam Stud. 2015, 24(11): 3448-3461.

15.Black L, Clarke T, Barnes PM, Stussman BJ, Nahin RL. Use of complementary health approaches among children aged 4–17 years in the United States: National Health Interview Survey,  2007–2012. Natl Health Stat Report. 2015, 78: 1-19.

16.Olano H, Kachan D, Tannenbaum S, Mehta A, Annane D, Lee D. Engagement in Mindfulness Practices by US Adults: Sociodemographic Barriers. J Altern Complement Med. 2015, 21(2): 100-102.

17.Eyler J, Giles D, Stenson C, Gray C. At A Glance: What We Know about The Effects of Service-Learning on College Students,
Faculty, Institutions and Communities 1993-2000: Third Edition. Vanderbilt University 2001. Accessed February 13, 2012.

18.Barner J. Implementing service-learning in the pharmacy curriculum. Am J Pharm Educ. 2000, 64(3): 260-265.

19. Astin AW, Vogelgesang LJ, Ikeda EK, Yee JA. How service learning affects students. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research
Institute, University of California, 2000.

20. Yorio P, Ye F. A meta-analysis on the effects of service-learning on the social, personal, and cognitive outcomes of learning. Acad Manag Learn Edu 2012, 11(1): 9-27.

21. Weiler L, Haddock S, Zimmerman T, Krafchick J, Henry K, Rudisill S. Benefits derived by college students from mentoring at-risk youth in a service-learning course. Am J Community Psychol. 2013, 52(3-4): 236-248.

22. Gadbury-Amyot C, Simmer-Beck M, McCunniff M, Williams KB. Using a multifaceted approach including community- based service-learning to enrich formal ethics instruction in a dental school setting. J Dent Educ 2006, 70(6): 652-661.

23.Ottenritter N. Service learning, social justice, and campus health. J Am Coll Health 2004, 52(4): 189-191.

24.Wilson J. Service-learning and the development of empat hy in US college students. Education+ Training. 2011, 53(2-3): 207-217.

25.Kearney K. Impact of a service-learning course on firstyear pharmacy students’ learning outcomes. Am J Pharm Educ. 2013, 77(2): 34.

26.Berila B. Contemplating the effects of oppression: Integrating mindfulness into diversity classrooms. The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry. 2014, 1(1).

27.Stringer E: Action research. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 1999.

28.Willits G: The Effects of Yoga Practice on Classroom Management in an Elementary School Setting. Master’s thesis. Dominican University of California; 2015.

29.Cashman SB, Seifer SD. Service-learning: an integral part of undergraduate public health. Am J Prev Med. 2008, 35(3): 273-278.

30.Case-Smith J, Sines J, Klatt M. Perceptions of children who participated in a school-based yoga program. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention 2010, 3(3): 226-238.

31. Holliday M, Luginbuhl D. Peer–centered service learning. Frontiers in Education Conference, Savannah. 2004.

Be the first to comment on "Bridging the Campus/Community Divide through Yoga: Surveying Student Experiences Delivering a  Yoga-Based Classroom Intervention"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*