Elementary School classrooms have new options this year to help students calm themselves. The mindfulness tools and calm-down kits inside many of the classrooms were purchased with money provided by the Ottawa Hills Schools Parent Association (OHSPA) through its annual wishlist funding program.
The idea for the tools and kits came from part-time elementary counselor Emily Celizic and builds on “Second Step,” the district’s social-emotional program that started in 2015.
“In coming up with ideas for OHSPA, I wanted to expand upon the tools taught in Second Step by incorporating elements of mindfulness and self-regulation that could be used in the classroom when students are in need,” Mrs. Celizic said.
“In the primary grades, I am seeing a lot of sensory needs. These tools can be a daily asset to the classroom teachers and students,” she added. “Some [teachers] are seeing increased sensory needs, and have been trying to incorporate mindfulness into their classrooms. Some have more than one student they think would benefit from the sensory tools. None were concerned about the calm-down kit being a distraction in the classroom.”
OHSPA provided nearly $1,300 to carry out the idea; with that money, Mrs. Celizic was able to create 20 kits, one each for every classroom in grades K-3 plus a few others. Inside each are a range of tools and devices the student can alone or in conjunction with a classroom teacher. The teacher also can use the kits to do calming exercises with the entire class. Since the start of school, Mrs. Celizic has visited every K-3 classroom and introduced the kits to both teachers and students.
“I have had a lot of great feedback so far from teachers who are very glad to have these tools and say that students are using them often,” she said.
“Calm-down kits have been recommended as a valuable tool to help students, both neuro-typical and those with special needs, remain successful in the classroom,” she said. “When students are quickly able to de-escalate from strong feelings, they are able to continue their learning more seamlessly without having to leave their learning environment.”
So when does a student reach for the kit? Whenever they are in need “calming,” whether from processing a strong feeling, having a bad day, or dealing with conditions our students face such as ADHD, sensory-processing disorder, anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and a range of learning disabilities or developmental disabilities.
Here is what is inside each calm-down kit:
- a Wiggle cushion (sensory inflated seat that provides movement and sensory input)
- Sensory tools (stress balls, koosh balls, fidgets, Play-Doh, and a velcro block)
- Bubble Timer
- colored pencils and coloring pages
- noise-cancelling headphones
- breathing cards
- feelings poster
- pinwheel for breathing exercises, and
- yoga pose stretch cards
- Weighted lap blanket
With the help of parent volunteers Heather Phillips and Erica Kelm, the lap blankets are being sewn.
Each teacher has an instructional kit containing information about using a “calm down corner,” printable resources such as the yoga cards and breathing cards, "break cards" that can be used to signal students who would like to use the box, and mindful coloring pages.
The mindfulness tools are separate from the calm-down baskets although many of the sensory items in the basket can be used to practice mindfulness techniques. In this way, thought the calming baskets are only in the primary grades, the mindfulness resources will be benefiting the entire student body. The mindfulness tools included books and resources she has been using to incorporate mindfulness strategies into each classroom lesson as well as the “Thoughtful Thursday” announcements.
In conjunction with the launch of the mindfulness tools and calm-down kits, Mrs. Celizic is incorporating more mindfulness exercises into the building’s “Thoughtful Thursday” program, thereby giving the entire student body (grades K-6) access and time to practice these skills each week. During the 12 days a month she is in the building, Mrs. Celizic teaches about 30 classroom lessons, meets with more than 70 students, and runs small-group lessons or in-class small-group activities.
Mrs. Celizic using a tool to help students with breathing exercises.