Calmer Choice, non-profit organization in Barnstable, Massachusetts Calmer Choice, non-profit organization in Barnstable, Massachusetts

Serendipitous Coincidences (part 3 of 4)

Here’s where we left off in Part 2 of our series: Sometimes, It’s All About Who You Know.

Svea presented her research, and Fiona checked the “Do Research” box on her to-do list.

Done. That’s a wrap. Phew, that was a lot of work, glad it’s over and we can go back to doing our good work.

“But wait! How long do these results last with kids? A week, a month, a year?” asked the schools and funders.



Fiona continued to spend the summer of 2012 spreading Calmer Choice love around the community and creating connections to help the organization grow.

She attended the Omega Institute’s “Mindfulness in Education” conference and, by a fortunate chance, Congressman Tim Ryan was speaking there about his newly published book, The Mindful Nation.

During this session, Fiona had an opportunity to raise her hand and share what we were doing on lil’ ol’ Cape Cod to address the need for a more “mindful nation” amongst our young people.

Thank goodness Fiona is not shy because, by October 2012, Tim Ryan agreed to come to Cape Cod to speak for us! After his visit he was so impressed with the phenomenal work Calmer Choice was doing that he connected Fiona with Mindful Magazine as they were getting ready to launch their first issue in March of 2013.

Then it gets really interesting…

This first issue of Mindful Magazine gets in the hands of Michael Crowley Ph.D., a researcher from Yale. After reading the article he reaches out to Deb McCarthy (remember her from Tufts?) who connects him to Fiona to see if they can collaborate. A Yale researcher is interested in researching what we were doing!? Uh, is there any other answer than YES?!?

Remember when I mentioned that research was slow and meandering? Well, this first dive into the pool of science with Yale lasted 3 years! And the relationship is still continuing today as we wait for papers to be officially published.

It began with Dr. Michael Crowley and Dr. Sarah Nicholls wondering if the results reported from the first study actually held over a period of time.

Using the original survey that Svea and Calmer Choice had created for her research, they surveyed 248 students who had Calmer Choice the previous school year.

The basics of those results are the following:

  • 84% of students were still using skills the mindfulness skills they had learned
  • 63% of students were better to handle being upset and calm down
  • 43% of students were using mindfulness strategies to help get to sleep
  • 38% of students used mindfulness to help with test anxiety

As is typical in research, one question leads to another, so Dr. Crowley ended up developing new survey tools asking questions related to emotional awareness, empathy, relationship skills, self-regulation, decisions making, attention, self-compassion, and coping.

In 2014-15, 240 sixth-grade students were surveyed with these instruments. But they didn’t stop there, a survey for teachers and parents was also administered to get a broader picture of the impact of mindfulness education.

In this survey, there were two schools that received Calmer Choice and one school that did not, and was used as the control. Pre and post surveys were administered to students and the brief results showed:

  • Students with a greater knowledge of mindfulness skills have better self-control and increased ability to plan, organize and complete complex tasks.
  • Calmer Choice participants improved their ability to manage emotion, handle negative feelings and increase executive function.
  • Calmer Choice participants demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in anxiety
  • The control group showed no improvement in the measured skills and an increase in anxiety over the school year.

Results from teachers who participated in the 8-week Calmer Choice program with their students:

  • Teachers reported less stress, anxiety, depression
  • Teachers felt more compassion and empathy
  • Teachers indicated improvements in focus, attention, impulse response, and working memory

Results from the Parent/Guardians surveyed (311 surveys returned):

  • 85% of kids talked about Calmer Choice at home
  • 78% felt their children were a little calmer, better able to concentrate and get along with others
  • 76% felt their children benefitted overall
  • 72% reported less anxiety in children
  • 79% reported children were kinder to others
  • 81% reported children were happier overall

Now what? Looks like we’ve seen that the results hold at least a year out from the program; and students, parents, and teachers continue to see improvements and gains in areas of social-emotional well-being!

What more could there possibly be to investigate?

Of course, by now you know that there is always another question, and the next one came from MIT and Harvard School of Education…

"Well, what about brain scans?"

"Like fMRIs?"

"Yeah, on kids."

"Can we do that?"

"Why not?" be continued in Part 4.