Mindfulness Practices in the Classroom
Teachers have begun incorporating mindfulness techniques such as gratitude circles, peace corners, mindful walks and guided listening and contemplative breathing into their classroom activities, advisory and homerooms in ways that encourage focus and reduce stress.
Posted by Carlene Gordon
Our third and fourth graders were recently delighted by a visit from the author of the Last But Not Least Lola book series, Christine Pakkala. Ms. Pakkala arrived with her colleague, Kelly Reznikoff, a psychologist specializing in positive psychology and mindfulness. The visit began with Ms. Pakkala reading chapter one of Last But Not Least Lola and the Wild Chicken. Our students chuckled and giggled at Lola’s experiences with friends and riding the school bus. Following the reading, Ms. Reznikoff led the students in mindfulness activities, something our students are already familiar with from their practices at Unquowa. She taught us the acronym GREAT DREAM which stands for; gratitude, relationships, exercise, awareness, trying out-direction, resilience, emotions, acceptance, meaning. Ms. Reznikoff took us through each stage as we talked about being grateful and happy in our daily lives. Students were each given a jar to keep filled with water and glitter. Ms. Reznikoff explained how we each hold as many as sixty thousand thoughts in our minds every day and they all swirl around, much like the glitter. As the glitter fell to the bottom of the jar, she explained how important it is to take some time each day to allow our thoughts to just settle, breathe and be present. Finally, we closed with Ms. Pakkala giving each student a signed copy of Last But Not Least Lola and the Wild Chicken so the children could continue to read the story on their own. We are so grateful to Ms. Pakkala and Ms. Reznikoff for their visit, entertainment and wisdom. Our third and fourth graders loved it!
Posted by Craig Knebel
6th grade has been practicing the art of stress reduction by combining movement with breathing techniques in the Dynamic Mindfulness program, also called TLS. Twice a week the group meets in the science lab for a 7 minute TLS experience.
Posted by Faith Barbuto
Ask anyone who practices mindfulness or even someone who has just dabbled and the response will surely be that mindfulness is very personal. Each person connects to it in their own unique ways and through practices that work for him or her. Here in Kindergarten, we have been exploring many ways to be mindful. We have tried yoga, tai-chi and meditation, checking in with our minds and bodies after each practice to see how we feel. We have gone on imaginary journeys, used music to calm ourselves down and eaten a raisin using ALL of our senses. All of these activities have helped us learn to be in the moment, to stop and reflect and to just feel our feelings. We also have a place in our classroom called the “peace corner,” a place to go to regulate your own emotions. We have started to delve into the uncomfortable feelings of anger and sadness. In my opinion, the ways that we are teaching our children to calm themselves from the noise of our world and to handle their complex emotions might be the most important teachings of all. One of my favorite ways to gauge the effectiveness of our mindfulness education is to ask the children what they think mindfulness is. I urge you to ask this question at home, you may be amazed at what you learn.
Posted by Bobby Brennan
The fourth graders have once again embarked on their knitting journey. Every year the fourth grade class learns how to knit hats and scarves using looms. The finished products are then donated to Mercy Learning Center when the weather starts to get cold. Knitting is a mindful practice, helping to alleviate some of the stress from busy days; and it’s fun too!
Posted by Lloyd Mitchell
Over the last few weeks, seventh graders have been exploring the idea of what it means to be an active listener. Building on our recent activities with practice of listening with our peers, today we took the experience in a new direction by exploring the idea of being an active listener in nature. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, we went to our outdoor classroom and each person found a spot where they were not within eye-sight of anyone else and sat for 20 minutes in silence. As the activity carried on, man-made noises came into the picture and heightened our experience. After the time was up, we reconvened as a group and talked about the experience. Many commented on noticing that as they sat, their hearing became attuned to the animals and leaves. Others noted the feeling of the wind and as they sat, the more they could feel the chill in the air. Many commented on how difficult the noise made the experience as more noise became a factor. The experience was a success. Students were able to heighten their senses and at the same time realize how busy our own lives are and how necessary it is to take the time to become attuned to nature. We ended our activity watching a short Ted Talk by Louie Schwartzberg on Nature and Gratitude which gave great closure to our activity.
Posted by Faith Barbuto
Halloween is the perfect backdrop to delve into fears! Together, our kindergarten community talked about the things that frighten us, discussing how what is scary to one person may not be to another. We pondered why people sometimes like being scared, how it feels to be scared and most importantly, how to deal with it. We wrote about and drew pictures of our nightmares and shared them as a group. During one activity, we took the drawings and stamped on them and crumpled them up, saying ” You aren’t real! You don’t scare me!” The crumpled up nightmares were hidden away in a closet for safekeeping. Another day we wrote about the scariest things we could think of – spiders, monsters, dying and I explained that being scared of things doesn’t make them go away, in fact worrying about them just makes them seem more real! Instead, we decided we would not let these things scare us! We gleefully ripped our papers into pieces and threw them into the air shouting, ” I am not afraid anymore!”
Our School-Wide Initiative
“Mindfulness in education brings active, open attention to the present moment into the classroom. Teachers and students who practice it can increase their focus and attention and reduce their anxiety.”
—Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness
After a year of planning, researching and teacher training, Unquowa launched a school-wide mindfulness initiative in the fall of 2013 for our children, faculty and families.
In late August of 2013, several faculty participated in a weeklong mindfulness training for educators at The Omega Institute in New York, and Head of School, Sharon Lauer, attended a related weekend conference for school leaders. Our entire faculty spent two days on retreat prior to the start of school that year to familiarize themselves with the Inner Resilience Program, the curriculum chosen for our school. To launch the program, Linda Lantieri, director of The Inner Resilience Program and author of Building Emotional Intelligence, spoke to a group of one hundred Unquowa parents that fall about how this program would be integrated into our school life and consequently support the emotional and social components of our children’s lives, both in and out of school.
Roll-out of this initiative began in the fall of 2013 and has continued to grow. We are fortunate to have Linda Lantieri running a year-long training series for parents each year from November through March. Teachers have begun incorporating mindfulness techniques such as gratitude circles, peace corners, mindful walks and guided listening and contemplative breathing into their classroom activities, advisory and homerooms in ways that encourage focus and reduce stress.
Each year we send additional faculty to Daniel Rechtschaffen’s summer training for educators at The Omega Institute, and our school is deeply involved in writing and developing curriculum for building self-care and empathy through the Mind and Life Institute. Because this initiative is schoolwide, it allows for drawing some powerful conclusions about the impact mindful practices and connected social-emotional learning can have on children and the importance of including this practice as a standard part of teach training.