Learning with Hearts, Minds, and Bodies – Independence Introduces Mindfulness Initiative

Posted on 09/21/2017
Independence Character Council students practice yoga

The Character Council at Independence Elementary consists of tomorrow’s leaders, students whose mission is to be the best learners and community members that they can. This year, the school is putting an emphasis on “mindfulness,” hoping that these new strategies and practices will keep students and staff ready to learn and work to the best of their abilities.

Independence Principal Emily Pavia believes this initiative will make her school an even better place to learn, work, and play. Mindfulness aligns with many of the 11 Principles of Character Education, and the immediate benefits are numerous. “Practicing mindfulness,” Pavia said, “helps with overall wellness in life – healthy hearts, minds, and bodies.” It seems families are busier with every passing year, and it becomes increasingly tougher to catch your breath. “It is becoming more challenging for families juggling many different variables that the modern lifestyle presents that perhaps were not present a decade ago. Mindfulness is a way of being aware of what is happening within us, as well as around us.”

Students involved in Character Council learn what it takes to improve their community, taking on many service projects. “We’ve been doing cool stuff like the Eagles Closet,” said Brianna Baechle, “where we donate clothes to the school and give them to people who don’t have them. It’s helping me grow because I’m learning the ways I can help. Even though I can’t raise a thousand dollars, I can still help the community.”

Students like Brianna want to be more mindful about how they can help others. One of the ways Independence is introducing mindfulness is to have their Council learn some yoga stretches and poses to share with their classmates and families, of which you can watch a short video here.

Anthony Wojewoda recently joined the Council, and even though he has never done yoga before, he immediately saw the benefit to learning some of the stretches, saying, “It will help stretch my mind and everyone else’s whom I’m working with.”

Independence Character Council students practice yogaPavia said the process has begun with “various breathing techniques and calming strategies with visuals that help the students understand why their breathing is so important.” And these techniques are not exclusive to yoga. “All classrooms have a calm-down spot with specific strategies and other sensory items to help children calm down.” This calming-down strategy can benefit staff, as well. “Staff have a room to go to in the building that has a calming atmosphere where they can reset.”

Independence has introduced a “Mindful Moment” each day at the end of the morning announcements, and teachers are implementing other strategies during the day – sometimes intentionally planned, such as when a challenging lesson is on the horizon, and other times simply done in the moment to help set the tone for learning. This isn’t just something to make students and staff feel better about themselves, but actually a data-driven strategy. “There is research that indicates that mindfulness promotes the growth of important integrative fibers that help us with the regulation of emotion, attention, thought, and behavior. Practicing mindfulness allows for us to be more connected with ourselves and with others. These practices are good for children and adults to stay healthy.”

The kids aren’t the only ones who love this new initiative. “Staff commented that they wished we could start every day with some yoga poses to help set the tone for the day,” Pavia said. Doing the introductory poses, “helped everyone feel calm, regulated, and ready to learn.”

That’s what this is all about – getting students even more ready to learn and ready to help their community. And there’s more coming. Pavia said they are planning to do a family wellness night, with the theme of “Healthy Heart, Body, Mind, and Soul.” If nothing else, we’ve found out that learning character at Independence is no stretch at all. 

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