How a Mindfulness App Helped an Elementary School Reduce Anxiety, Depression, and Aggression in its Student Population

The L.A.U.G.H. TIME Program

Opportunity

Anxiety, depression, aggression, and non-compliant behavior is prevalent in some inner city schools. Could a newly released evidence-based, mindfulness app for students help decrease these trends and help to increase school engagement, classroom participation, positive social behaviors, and coping skills?

For the 2018-2019 school year, The Catherine Mayer Foundation, Madrona Elementary School, University of Washington School of Psychology, and UpTop were determined to launch a pilot program to test these theories.

  • Challenge

    Red-tape within the Seattle School system, logistics of a facility with many physical barriers, and scalability of Apple’s TestFlight development platform.

  • Solution

    Building our own IT allowed us to be quick and agile. Cloud storage of student drawings and data allowed for easy access and management from any device.

  • Outcomes

    Students and teachers reported positive outcomes, both physiologically and psychologically, in their learning environment leading to a multi-year study. All possible because of the underlying infrastructure and technology put in place.

Video Credit: The Catherine Mayer Foundation

Background

The L.A.U.G.H. App, designed and developed by UpTop, was released to the public in early 2017. It is a specially designed iPad app that fulfills a philanthropic artist’s vision that combines visual arts, breathing, music, and movement. The goal was to help kids relax, focus and concentrate, in order to increase creativity and self-esteem.

A functional prototype was submitted to the Seattle Children’s Research Institute where a clinical study was performed on children ages 6-9 in order to test Catherine Mayer’s vision and hypothesis. The results were analyzed and the app was adjusted accordingly until it reached its most effective state.

“... Yes, I was skeptical, but now I am a believer. I absolutely believe in this app, and I’ve seen the progress in our student behavior.”

Mary McDaniel, Principal at Madrona Elementary School

Program Overview

The simple premise was as follows:

  1. Students fill out a mood meter at start of app
  2. Practice mindful breathing
  3. Share free form drawings
  4. Answer survey questions about learning and school
  5. Fill out mood meter on completion of session
  6. Students ‘screened’ artwork is displayed on TVs in their learning environment to reinforce the positive energies created

Strategy

We were responsible for rearchitecting the app’s design to accommodate the newly proposed feature of social sharing and building out the infrastructure at the school to support the pilot program.

The initial strategy was to leverage the school’s Internet and use their officially commissioned iPads. But the process to go through the school system to accomplish this would not have enabled the team to meet the deadline. The project’s aha-moment came when a team member jokingly said, “Why don’t we just setup our own network?” There was a moment of silence, before it got serious. We quickly researched some possible ways we could spin up on this idea before reaching out to the Client about whether or not this would be permissible. A few phone calls were made and we were given the green light to proceed.

Apple’s Test Flight platform worked well in year 1, but in year 2, it was more challenging to maintain and scale the number of apps that were deployed within the pilot program.
Case Study Statistics

Outcomes

Reflecting back to the beginning, there was almost a moment of defeat before we even got started. But despite the red tape inherent in a complex school system, the quick thinking and execution of the team resulted in the critical infrastructure and technology needed to make this program work.

But our satisfaction was superseded by the first-hand accounts from students and testimonials from teachers on how the program was working. This program was helping children, both physiologically and psychologically, in their learning environment. Positive year 1 results led to an expansive year 2 study that tripled the number of participants and classrooms. Year 2 results were equally positive and the direct impact of these results have led to on-going discussions about how this program can scale district wide.

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