Washington D.C. Students Soar with Meditation at Ideal Academy

Ideal Academy Public Charter School is a hidden jewel nestled amidst the noise and haste that is the heartbeat of our nation's capital.
08/21/2015 05:03 pm ET Updated Aug 19, 2016

Ideal Academy Public Charter School (Ideal Academy) is a hidden jewel nestled amidst the noise and haste that is the heartbeat of our nation's capital. It is a "safe space" where bustling tourism and high government affairs is juxtaposed with the violence and chaos that too often marks the densely-populated cityscape of Washington D C.

For 20 minutes each morning and afternoon, a peaceful stillness pervades the school as students and teachers alike engage in meditation. "Quiet Time" -- as it is known -- is a non-religious form of meditation (TM) and is a regularly-scheduled part of the school day, designed to reduce stress and improve focus among the participants. In general meditation allows a narrowing of focus that shuts out the external world and often involves a stilling of the body.

According to the David Lynch Foundation, "In low-income urban schools, traumatic stress is a reality for millions of children who grow up in an oppressive climate of poverty, violence, and fear. This stress impedes learning and undermines physical and mental health."

In a study, Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, found that meditation improved both physical and emotional responses to stress. In the study, people who meditated regularly for six weeks showed less activation of their immune systems and less emotional distress when they were put in a stressful situation.

Principal Dr. George Rutherford is the force behind this initiative at Ideal Academy and has the distinction of being the first principal in the world to incorporate Transcendental Meditation in a public school. Back in 1993 while principal of Fletcher Johnson Education Center in Washington DC, he instituted the program and actually named it "Quiet Time," which has since been replicated in schools all over the country.

For more information about Ideal Academy, call 202- 729-6660 or visit their website at http://www.iapcs.com/

Interview Segment with Dr. George H. Rutherford:


What changes did you notice when you first implemented "Quiet Time" into a school?

When we first introduced "Quiet Time" we noticed the calmness and a reduction in the confrontation of students and fights. We also had an increase in our attendance and academic achievement. School was open 7am to 11pm and was a safe haven for students.

What are the benefits you have experienced using this in schools?


I believe quiet time is a skill within itself. All people need to experience a moment of quietness in the course of their day. Our students are able to better focus with "Quiet Time." It enables them to think more clearly, and relieves the stress that hampers learning.


What do you expect to happen as you further implement this program?

I expect to see more of our students being successful because of the "Quiet Time" training they received at Ideal Academy Public Charter School. If you look at those students who have been with us, they have done quite well. Academically, they've done well in college or trade schools. And that's what we are about here. It's about training young people to go into the world and become contributing citizens.

Here's What Former Students Have to Say:

Jahise LeBouef, Senior at New York University learned to meditate in the 7th grade.

I really appreciate it. I like to live stress free especially in school. NYU is very stressful at times and around finals I still practice meditation. It just calms me down and lets me know everything is going to be okay. And I really appreciate having it at such a young age...I was in the 7th grade.

So still keeping this with me is very important, especially living in D.C. and kids fighting. I don't like the negativity so to just be in my own space its really good. And it was good for the other kids in my class too. Whenever there was an issue we would do the collective meditation and once we left it was just a peaceful space. In the world and classes--with people having beefs and stuff like that--it will help a lot of people to center themselves.

Omar Jeter, 16 years old, learned to meditate in the 7th grade.

I used to get in trouble a lot and when they brought TM here it calmed me down a little bit I got a lot better at doing my work. At one time I had a 1.something GPA and they had meditation and I got a 3.0. I know its TM that helped. I calmed down. I stayed out of trouble, stayed in my seat, minded my business for the first time and did my work.

De'Lanta Lawrence, now 16, started meditating in the fourth grade.

It really does help. Let's say if you are tired, it helps get all of the tiredness out. You come out of the meditation you can focus and do your work and focus during class all of that energy you had throughout the day it helps you release it and you can go straight home and just relax.

Do you still meditate?

Yes.

Really, how often?


When I get upset...when you do meditation it also helps you think about things you need to do that are good and smart like let's say I get in trouble when I'm sitting in meditation I can think about what I have to do to solve the problem or something I am having issues with.

Keith Jenkins, 11th grade, learned to meditate in the 1st to 5th grades.

It's very relaxing. Less stress, you can sit back and relax for a moment. Feel stress free... feel like I can do anything I put my mind to. I still use it like before a test. I will just sit back for 10 minutes and close my eyes, then start back up and finish the test.