Research Supports Education for Life

Follow the links below to review research that supports the principles and practices of Living Wisdom School.

Most education research focuses on how teaching methods affect academic performance. But our 40-plus years of helping children have persuaded us that educational practices that enhance a child’s inner development can contribute very powerfully to their academic success.

(If you come across supportive research, please let us know.)


  1. The suprising thing Google learned about its employees – and what it means for today’s students. Google originally based its hiring practices on evaluating applicants’ performance in STEM skills – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But a recent second look came to a very different conclusion – STEM ranked just seventh as a factor in employee success. This Washington Post article supports a balanced education that includes training in self-management and interpersonal skills.
  2. What does it take to become the nation’s top collegiate soccer team? For the two-time national champion Stanford University men’s soccer team, it means practicing many of the same schools teachers use at LWS to improve their students’ ability to be focused and enthusiastic in the classroom, and be calmly centered while taking tests. Watch this very interesting video by Stanford High Performance Sports Psychologist Dr. Dan Freigang
  3. Active Focused Learning Approach. Quotes: “I’m not really held back anymore, just sitting in class waiting”. “‘There’s not a lot of lecturing, which makes it easier to stay focused,’ ” she said. ‘I really like working with other students.’” Students spend more time working in groups. The strategy is getting more students to achieve better in class.
  4. Longer school day and year failed to improve test scores
  5. Task to Aid Self-Esteem Lifts Grades for Some
  6. Active Focused Learning Approach.
  7. Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play In School (PDF)
  8. 7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence is One of the Fastest-Growing Job Skills. A Fast Company article on how HR managers are changing their hiring criteria. Quote: “The awareness that emotional intelligence is an important job skill, in some cases even surpassing technical ability, has been growing in recent years. In a 2011 Career Builder Survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers and human resource professionals, 71% stated they valued emotional intelligence in an employee over IQ; 75% said they were more likely to promote a highly emotionally intelligent worker; and 59% claimed they’d pass up a candidate with a high IQ but low emotional intelligence.”
  9. The Heart in Holistic Education. (PDF) Educational programs based on new scientific discoveries about the heart lead to improved emotional stability, cognitive functioning, and academic performance.
  10. Tutoring Tots. MSNBC News feature.
  11. 10 Ways to Improve Schools Using Coaching Principles. A hugely important article by Tony Holler, a public high school honors chemistry teacher and football/track and field coach (Plainfield North HS, IL). Significantly, Living Wisdom School has followed Tony’s 10 recommendations throughout its 40-plus-year history. And because we’re very clear that they’ve played a large part in our success, the principles are engrained in our school’s philosophy. (By the way, Tony’s freshman football team has won 39 games in a row. Tony is a member of the hall of fame of the U.S. national track and field and cross country coaches’ association.)
  12. We’re destroying our kids — for nothing: Too much homework, too many tests, too much needless pressure. A Salon article argues that we’ve gone overboard on academics, destroying the enthusiasm in kids that’s essential for academic success. The result? “Children are born curious, and it’s pretty easy to facilitate that, to groom it,” says Vassar College neuropsychologist Abigail Baird. “We’re doing the opposite. We’re squishing their desire to learn new things. And I think that’s a crisis.”
  13. Impact of Homework on Academic Achievement (PDF)
  14. Going in circles puts students on path to better choices. Quotes: “The goal is not so much to punish as to get students on paths to make better choices, to understand the impact of what they do, to deal with people better”… “We’ve become more like a family and not just kids who go to school together,” said freshman Leah Brito. “We’ve grown up big time in the last few months.” “One result of the new approach is that kids are giving more thought to the effect what they do and say can have on others,” she said. “In eighth grade, the he said/she said stuff was horrible when many of the students were together at Audubon middle school,” Brito said. “This year, there is much less of that.”
  15. Is Test Prep Educational Malpractice? In many elementary schools there is little or no time for non-tested subjects such as art, music, even science and history.
  16. Preschool Controversy – Academics or Play? Quotes: People who attended play-based preschools were eight times less likely to need treatment for emotional disturbances than those who went to preschools where direct instruction prevailed. Graduates of the play-based preschools were three times less likely to be arrested for committing a felony.
  17. Why I pulled my son out of a school for ‘gifted’ kids. In this Mashable article, a mother tells how her son thrived after she transferred him out of an elite academically oriented elementary school in New York City. “If you are privileged enough to be selective about what schools your children attend, please consider how they are learning and not just what they are learning. School isn’t only about cramming as much as possible as quickly as possible into their little brains.”
  18. Pressure Cooker Kindergarten. Quotes: Kindergarten has changed radically in the last two decades in ways that few Americans are aware of. Children now spend far more time being taught and tested on literacy and math skills than they do learning through play and exploration, exercising their bodies, and using their imaginations. Many kindergartens use highly prescriptive curricula geared to new state standards and linked to standardized tests. In an increasing number of kindergartens, teachers must follow scripts from which they may not deviate. These practices, which are not well grounded in research, violate long-established principles of child development and good teaching. It is increasingly clear that they are compromising both children’s health and their long-term prospects for success in school. . Kindergarten has ceased to be a garden of delight and has become a place of stress and distress…. Blindly pursuing educational policies that could well damage the intellectual, social and physical development of an entire generation…. There’s ongoing concern about American children catching up with their counterparts in countries such as Japan and China. Specifically in areas such as science, math and technology, schooling in those countries before second grade is “playful and experiential.” And youngsters in Finland, where teens consistently score high academically, also attend play-based kindergarten and start first grade at age 7 rather than age 6.
  19. School starting age: the evidence. An article on the website of Cambridge University. “In England children now start formal schooling, and the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy at the age of four. A recent letter signed by around 130 early childhood education experts, including myself, published in the Daily Telegraph (11 Sept 2013) advocated an extension of informal, play-based pre-school provision and a delay to the start of formal ‘schooling’ in England from the current effective start until the age of seven (in line with a number of other European countries who currently have higher levels of academic achievement and child well-being).”
  20. What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success. The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.
  21. One in Five Girls in Upper Secondary School Suffers From School Burnout. Quotes: A sense of optimism during university studies along with high self-esteem tend to predict job engagement ten years later on, while an avoidance strategy tends to predict work-related burnout…. The more encouragement the students got from their teachers, the less likely they were to experience school burnout.
  22. Explaining Math Concepts Improves Learning. “Teaching children the basic concept behind math problems was more useful than teaching children a procedure for solving the problems – these children gave better explanations and learned more,” Rittle-Johnson said. “This adds to a growing body of research illustrating the importance of teaching children concepts as well as having them practice solving problems.”
  23. Social Skills, Extracurricular Activities In High School Pay Off Later In Life. Quotes: High school sophomores who … [had] good social skills and work habits, and who participated in extracurricular activities in high school, made more money and completed higher levels of education 10 years later than their classmates who had similar standardized test scores but were less socially adroit and participated in fewer extracurricular activities…. “Soft skills” such as sociability, punctuality, conscientiousness and an ability to get along well with others, along with participation in extracurricular activities, are better predictors of earnings and higher educational achievement later in life than having good grades and high standardized test scores…. Schools are increasingly cutting…activities that foster soft skills in order to focus almost exclusively on achieving adequate yearly progress on state-mandated standardized tests.
  24. Students Benefit From Depth Rather Than Breadth. Quotes: Teaching fewer topics in greater depth is a better way to prepare students for success in college science. Teachers who “teach to the [standardized] test” may not be optimizing their students’ chances of success in college science.
  25. Task to Aid Self-Esteem Lifts Grades for Some
  26. Teacher Teaming. (Teachers routinely engage in “teaming” at Living Wisdom School, thanks to the integrated curriculum and school environment that encourages teacher collaboration.)
  27. Teaching Resilience With Positive Education
  28. Ten Steps to Better Student Engagement. Quotes: Students who have been shamed or belittled by the teacher or another student will not effectively engage in challenging tasks. To learn and grow, one must take risks, but most people will not take risks in an emotionally unsafe environment.
  29. Creating Positive Classroom Management. (A teacher developed creative ways to encourage positive attitudes and behaviors in younger students. The method and theory are very similar to the “Rocks in the Basket” game used at LWS and described in this video.) Quotes: “I’d spent years offering students rewards (stickers, tickets, tangibles, intangibles) for good behavior and I’d come to realize how they were often self-defeating…. One change I had already made was … I would celebrate “great work” by reading aloud the child’s name and stating what they had done well. Often their classmates would give an actual round of applause – which was lovely.”
  30. Learning and Motivation Strategies Course Increases Odds of College Graduation
  31. Recess Makes for Better Students. Quotes: Study finds getting enough of it [recess] each day helps kids perform better in classroom…. Children learn as much on breaks as they do in the traditional classroom, experimenting with creativity and imagination and learning how to interact socially…. Conflict resolution is solved on the playground, not in the classroom…. The more physical fitness tests children passed, the better they did on academic tests…. Walks outdoors appeared to improve scores on tests of attention and concentration.
  32. Algebra-for-All Policy Found to Raise Rates Of Failure
  33. Lectures Didn’t Work in 1350—and They Still Don’t Work Today. A conversation with David Thornburg about designing a better classroom.

(Back to Top)


Joy in Learning

  1. The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland (The Atlantic),  by Tim Walker, a former teacher based in Finland. He now cares for his two young children and writes regularly at Taught by Finland and Papa on the Playground. Research and school experience show that play time is crucial for children’s academic and social development.
  2. How to Parent Like a German. German students excel, yet in German schools academics are balanced by other kinds of learning.
  3. Stay Focused: New research on how to close the achievement gap (The Economist, UK). A review of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by journalist Paul Tough, a former editor at New York Times Magazine.
  4. Psychologist explores how childhood play influences adult creativity. Sandra Russ’s new book, Pretend Play in Childhood: Foundation of Adult Creativity reveals how high-achieving innovative adults use methods learned in childhood play to help them achieve success.
  5. Most 1st Grade Classes Not High Quality. Quotes: Only 23 percent of classrooms could be judged to be of “high quality” in both their instructional practices and social and emotional climate.
  6. Happiness Contagious as the Flu. (At Living Wisdom School, we create a joyful, caring environment among the students. When a new student arrives, he or she immediately feels supported and positively affected. Parents routinely comment that soon after their children enter LWS they seem happier than at their former school.)
  7. The Love Plant: A Ramble on Sports and Good Feelings. Describes a powerful experiment conducted by the children at the original Living Wisdom School, with deep implications for education, sports, and life.

(Back to Top)

Meditation, Breathing, Yoga, Affirmations

  1. Meditation Program in the College Curriculum. Quotes: [Meditation] produced significant freshman-senior increases in intelligence and increased social self-confidence, sociability, general psychological health, and social maturity.
  2. Self-Affirmation Can Break Cycle of Negative Thoughts. A report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  3. Meditation in the Treatment of ADHD. Meditation-training showed significant decreases in levels of impulsivity [and significant improvements in] selective deployment of attention and freedom from distractibility in the behavior of the children.
  4. How Meditation Can Give Our Kids an Academic Edge
  5. Meditation seen promising as ADHD therapy. Quotes: “The effect was much greater than we expected.” – lead researcher Sarina J. Grosswald, a cognitive learning specialist in Arlington, Virginia…. The children also showed improvements in attention, working memory, organization, and behavior regulation.
  6. Faith rites boost brains. (Even 10 to 15 minutes of meditation appear to have significant positive effects on cognition, relaxation, and psychological health.)
  7. Schools use mind-body relaxation techniques to help kids fight anxiety. Quotes: Mind-body relaxation, including yoga, can improve self-esteem and boost grades and test scores. Regular exposure to the [relaxation] training boosted students’ work habits, attendance, and academic performance.
  8. Silence is Golden Mindfulness Meditation study)
  9. Smacking Hits Kids’ IQ
  10. Smiles Predict Marriage Success. (Many parents report their children smile more after attending Living Wisdom School.)
  11. Vedic Science based Education and Non-verbal Intelligence. (An increase in student problem-solving ability was found.)
  12. Meditation and Assertive Training in the Treatment of Social Anxiety.
  13. Meditation Effects on Cognitive Function. Meditation practice produced significant positive effects.
  14. Meditation Program in the College Curriculum. Quotes: [Meditation] produced significant freshman-senior increases on intelligence and increased social self-confidence, sociability, general psychological health, and social maturity.
  15. Meditation improves Leadership Behaviors. Quotes: Subjects who learned [meditation]… as a self-development technique improved their leadership behaviors.

(Back to Top)

Social Skills

  1. UCLA neuroscientist’s book explains why social connection is as important as food and shelter
  2. Psychosocial stress reversibly disrupts prefrontal processing and attentional control
  3. This is Why You Don’t SUCEED. This 16-minute talk by Simon Sinek has been viewed over 11 million times. The social skills he finds dangerously lacking in the smartphone generation are actively cultivated in children at Living Wisdom School from the first day of kindergarten until their last day in eighth grade.

(Back to Top)


  1. Adolescents Involved With Music Do Better In School. Music participation has a positive effect on reading and mathematics achievement for both elementary and high school students.
  2. Adolescents Involved With Music Do Better In School
  3. Music Education Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills. Quotes: Children exposed to a multi-year programme of music … display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.
  4. Music Training Linked To Enhanced Verbal Skills. Quotes: Music training … may be more important for enhancing verbal communication skills than learning phonics…. potential of music to tune our neural response to the world around us…. Music training may have considerable benefits for engendering literacy skills…. (Musicians have enhanced subcortical auditory and audiovisual processing of speech and music.)

(Back to Top)

Physical Education

  1. Physically fit students do better on tests. Quotes: Physically fit students … are more likely to do well on … tests and have better attendance…. Fit students are less likely to have disciplinary problems.
  2. Schools use mind-body relaxation techniques to help kids fight anxiety. Quotes: Mind-body relaxation, including yoga, can improve self-esteem and boost grades and test scores…. Regular exposure to the [relaxation] training boosted students’ work habits, attendance, and academic performance.
  3. Physical Activity May Strengthen Children’s Ability To Pay Attention. Quotes: Following the acute bout of walking, children performed better on the flanker task. . Following acute bouts of walking, children had a larger P3 amplitude, suggesting that they are better able to allocate attentional resources…. The increase in reading comprehension following exercise equated to approximately a full grade level.
  4. A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind. Quotes: Cardiovascular exercise was related to higher academic performance…. Regular exercise benefits the brain, improves attention span, memory, and learning … reduces stress and the effects of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder…. Aerobic exercise pumps more blood throughout the body, including to the brain. More blood means more oxygen and, therefore, better-nourished brain tissue. Exercise also spurs the brain to produce more of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which Ratey calls “Miracle-Gro for the brain.” This powerful protein encourages brain cells to grow, interconnect, and communicate in new ways. Studies also suggest exercise plays a big part in the production of new brain cells, particularly in the dentate gyrus, a part of the brain heavily involved in learning and memory skills…. [Many] schools are cutting back on PE and reducing recess hours. It’s a huge challenge with budget restraints and No Child Left Behind.
  5. Fish may be brain food for teenage boys

(Back to Top)

Other Articles and Papers

  1. This Is Exactly What’s Wrong With This Generation. A very important 15-minute video about the effects of smartphones and social media on young people’s lives. Living Wisdom School gives children an environment where these kinds of problems simply cannot happen.
  2. It’s Official: To Protect Baby’s Brain, Turn Off TV (from Wired online). Quote: “A decade ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that parents limit TV consumption by children under two years of age. The recommendations were based as much on common sense as science, because studies of media consumption and infant development were themselves in their infancy. The research has finally grown up. And though it’s still ongoing, it’s mature enough for the AAP to release a new, science-heavy policy statement on babies watching television, videos or any other passive media form. Their verdict: It’s not good, and probably bad.”
  3. The Human Brain: Wired for Values? This article was published as a sidebar to an article in Mothering magazine that strongly praised Living Wisdom School.
  4. Lack of Playtime Killing Joy of Learning
  5. Smart and Good High Schools. A “Report to the Nation” from the State University of New York)
  6. The Heart in Holistic Education. (PDF) Quotes: Educational programs based on new scientific discoveries about the heart lead to improved emotional stability, cognitive functioning, and academic performance.
  7. After Abuse, Changes In the Brain. Quotes: Affectionate mothering alters the expression of genes in animals, allowing them to dampen their physiological response to stress. These biological buffers are then passed on to the next generation. [There is] direct evidence that the same system is at work in humans.
  8. Loneliness Spreads Like a Virus. (At Living Wisdom School, feelings of connectedness and joy spread like a virus.)
  9. Positive Action Program. (The program focuses on helping students be aware of which behaviors are positive and will increase their happiness in the long term.)
  10. National education standards can end up hurting students
  11. Self-Control Is Contagious
  12. Nature Makes Us More Caring
  13. College prep math failure full study. (PDF) Quotes: This study indicates that artificially pushing children beyond their current capability is counter-productive.
  14. Studies Reveal Why Kids Get Bullied and Rejected. (The researchers’ recommendations for teaching children social skills uncannily reflect how LWS teachers practice conflict resolution during playground time.
  15. Mothering magazine praises Living Wisdom School.
  16. Education in the Age of Energy. Human awareness is becoming less materialistic and more energy-aware. How will schools adapt? Living Wisdom leads the way.
  17. National education standards can end up hurting students
  18. Nature Makes Us More Caring, Study Says
  19. When Friends Make You Poorer. “Students tend to gravitate to a major chosen by more of their peers. And the students whose choice was driven by their peers were then more likely to end up in lower-paying jobs that they didn’t like.”
  20. Kids Get Worst SAT Scores in a Decade
  21. APA review confirms link between playing violent video games and aggression
  22. Exposure to TV violence related to irregular attention and brain structure
  23. School Starting Age: The Evidence.

(Back to Top)