As we teach our students about world cultures and scientific breakthroughs, we also teach them how to understand themselves, relate to one another and deal with the challenges of life, both large and small. Our Lower School mindfulness curriculum gives our students tools to prevent, recognize and address issues from a state of calm self-awareness. It helps our kids with focus, concentration, and emotional regulation. It’s about learning simple things we can do each day to get through those times when emotions run high.
What is Mindfulness?
Lower School guidance counselor Ms. Karin Mitchell introduced the mindfulness curriculum to our 4th graders last year and the program has grown to include grades 3-5. Each lesson answers the questions, "Why be mindful?" and "How can I be mindful?" Topics include:
Compassion for others
The interconnection of all things and beings
Mindfulness in everyday activities
Mindfulness is nothing more than present moment awareness and an open and friendly willingness to understand what is going on in and around you.
It’s noticing without judgment or getting carried away with emotions. It is feeling the sun on your skin, the salty tears roll down your cheeks, or a ripple of frustration in your body. Mindfulness is experiencing both joy and pain.
Mindfulness helps people to feel calm, focus and concentrate, plan and organize, and accept what is happening in their lives.
What Does a Mindfulness Lesson Look Like?
During a 5th-grade class this year, Ms. Mitchell began with a discussion about mindfulness and a listening activity. She rang a bell and asked students to raise their hand when they could no longer hear the tone. Some students shared that they noticed other people breathing or could hear when people moved. Others said they heard the sound change from moment to moment. This simple activity helps students focus when other things are going on around them. It also helps them realize that it’s ok to notice other things and then draw your attention back to where you want it to be.The group then participated in a ten-minute breathing activity. With eyes closed, they sat in a circle and listened to a guided recording. Ms. Mitchell offered tips such as “notice that your breath feels cooler coming in and warmer going out.” She acknowledged that their thoughts might wander, but once they notice, to refocus on the breath.
After the session, the group talked about what it felt like. One student shared, “It feels good not to worry about anything and just think about breathing.”Finally they paired off for a mindful attention activity and repeated to one another, “I am here. I see you.” After, the class discussed what those phrases meant. Students shared that it means you are giving the person your whole attention, something we don’t always do.They also talked about how they can use these lessons every day. When our kids are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, they can take a moment to notice the more subtle things around them, breathe and recognize their emotions before reacting. When they have difficulty concentrating in class or at home, they can try a listening practice to focus their attention.
Mindfulness in the Classroom Training 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.
"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