Our Lower School mindfulness curriculum gives young students tools to prevent, recognize and address issues from a state of calm self-awareness. It’s about learning simple things we can do each day to get through those times when emotions run high. In a recent lesson with Lower School guidance counselor Ms. Karin Mitchell, first graders explored the concept of peace and how to create it first inside themselves and then out in the world.
Curiosity and Practice
Ms. Mitchell began the lesson by asking the class, "What is peace?" With answers like "the end of all wars," "joy and being happy," "being kind to others," and "feeling calm," our first graders demonstrated their understanding that peace is related to harmony, inside and out.
Ms. Mitchell then led the class through a mindfulness activity to give her students some tools to activate peaceful thinking and create a state of calm. The class laid on the ground with a gem placed on each of their hearts. As they closed their eyes, Ms. Mitchell read an inner peace meditation:
"There is a soft spot inside of you where you can get calmness and stillness. To find this soft spot where your inner peace lies, close your eyes and take several deep belly breaths. Imagine you are traveling into your body by your heart, to the place where love and all that is good lives within you. Keep breathing. Allow yourself to feel the goodness. Picture light coming down from the sky onto you and light coming up from the ground through your feet. Light represents love, therefore all you feel is goodness and peace. You allow this peace to go to all the parts of your body . . . your fingers, toes, legs, arms, back, neck, and head. Your inner peace has the ability to calm you and clear your mind. You can go to this place any time you wish because all you need is your mind. You simply let your thoughts take you to this place when you need it."
The meditation is not only fun, but helps our first graders develop concentration and focused attention, empowerment over emotions, and body awareness. They also shared how the activity made them feel or what they thought about during the session. They then read two children's books to examine peace in the world:
Silence, by Carme Lemniscates, guides the reader to to stop, listen, and reflect on their experiences and the world around them.
A Little Peace, by Barbara Kerley, includes photos from around the world with simple, reflective messages about our responsibilities for finding and keeping peace on the planet.
They discussed a variety of scenarios — a school, a crowded bus, an open-air market with lots of people — and talked about what peace looks like in each, from a simple smile to a helping hand. Lastly, they discussed how to create outward peace in their own lives. Janelle '32 shared that to create peace in her life she,"donated my too-small snow boots to my dad who works with people who need stuff like this" and "can show kindness to kids in my class."
"One may believe six- and seven-year-olds can't 'get' this stuff, but they are much closer to peace and how to find it within themselves than many of us adults. My own regular mindfulness practice has had such a profound impact on me personally that I feel both compelled and honored to teach what I know to my students. I think it is incredibly important to give kids permission to access their inner world . . . to know that they can learn practices that will support them for a lifetime." — Ms. Mitchell
Do Try This At Home!
Part of our Heartstrings program, these lessons help students build a foundation of connectedness with others along with a sense of agency and understanding of self. Our first graders are practicing these valuable strategies at school, but mindfulness is great to practice at home, too! Explore what peace looks like in your family, dim the lights, read a meditation, and talk about how it made you feel. Adults and children alike can benefit from taking the time to practice mindfulness and create a space for peace within.
Mindfulness in the Classroom for Our Teachers
Ms. Mitchell is a Certified Life Coach with training in Mindfulness and Meditation from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. Through Severn's support, she attended Mindfulness in Schools at the Beauvoir School in D.C. and the week-long National Association of Independent School’s Mindfulness in Education training in New York. Ms. Mitchell also taught Mindfulness in the Classroom at the Severn Summer Institute for Lower, Middle and Upper School teachers.