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
Each Thursday afternoon, our fourth graders participate in a new mindfulness activity. This week was an activity called, “Mirror Hands.” Facing a partner, partners rubbed their hands together to create warmth and then joined palms. One student lead the other student’s movements in silence. Students were required to focus on their partner’s subtle signals to follow moves. After a while, the teacher directed partners to switch and the activity continued. As a challenge, students were then instructed to switch leaders without a cue from the teachers and remain silent. Later the activity was attempted standing up without touching. Great focus and teamwork, fourth graders!
Posted by Lloyd Mitchell
The amount of noise in today’s world continues to grow, and sometimes we forget the genuine peace of the nature around us. Recently, seventh graders embarked on a mindful activity designed to help attune their senses to their surroundings. Each seventh grader chose a spot around the field area or woods where they were out of sight and earshot of each other and spent 25 minutes simply listening and reconnecting. At the end of the 25 minutes, they came back together to talk about what the experience was like and as always, many became much more aware of the nature around them! We plan to do this activity again in the winter when the elements play a role in the nature around us and for a longer period of time. The experience was enriching for all!
Posted by Carlene Gordon
Can you be still for two minutes? Not only are our fourth graders up to the challenge, they have set a goal of getting to five minutes. Students calculated that there are 1,440 minutes in a day. How many of these minutes are noisy, rushed, scheduled and stressful? In fourth grade, we start each day in a circle hearing morning announcements and sharing goals for the day. We close our morning meeting by opening a few windows (no matter the weather), turning off the lights and sitting, many with eyes closed, in mindful listening. Afterwards students share what they heard internally (heartbeat, breathing, thoughts in their head) and externally; the brook, wind, traffic, and many other sounds. Students have learned to appreciate and eagerly anticipate daily mindful listening practice.
Posted by Faith Barbuto
With Halloween looming, the kindergarten class has turned some of our mindfulness focus to fears. Specifically talking about what are we afraid of and what we can do when we feel afraid. We have read stories about ghosts and goblins that have just been created by overactive imaginations. We have talked about the way our “mummies” comfort us when we are scared. We have written letters to the monsters under our beds. We have shut our nightmares away in a closet! In one particularly moving activity, we drew pictures of the things that frightened us most, then faced our fears. Students looked their monsters in the face and shouted “I’m not afraid of you!” Then we ripped up the drawings and jubilantly threw them into the air!
Posted by Wendy Kerr
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!
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.