Mindfulness and Movement

Welcome back everyone! 🙂  Some of you are returning for another wonderful year at MCS, and some of you may be new to our community, either way, we’re so glad you’re here! As the new Mindfulness Coordinator, I feel very fortunate and privileged to be in this position, and am excited to build on our already amazing Mindfulness program. This year we are growing even more, and will be adding a Movement aspect to our Mindfulness curriculum. Students will be spending half an hour on Friday mornings in the Aqua room with me learning about mindfulness, as well as getting the chance to move their bodies through yoga, creative movement and dance. For students who do not attend on Fridays, the lessons and materials are shared with all of our amazing teachers, and they will be working with your children throughout the week to provide them with the same experiences and activities we are working on during our Friday Mindfulness and Movement classes. I am so unbelievably excited for this school year and would like to share with you what we’ve been working on these first few weeks of school in Mindfulness and Movement (M&M).  I apologize that this post is a little long, but there’s lots to catch you up on! 🙂

Our first week we focused on ‘The Bell’. If you read the post below titled ‘Inviting the Bell’, you will find out how important the bell is in our school, and how beneficial it is to work with children using the bell as a powerful tool for breathing, self-regulation and bringing them into the present moment. During our Friday M&M lesson, I introduced students to the bell. We discussed what we do when we hear the bell (stop, take a deep breath, and look at the person who rang it). We practiced this a couple times, then I introduced Barry the Breathing Bug (a big, green, bug puppet). I explained to students that Barry loves to take big breaths with his friends because it helps him feel calm and peaceful. We took a breath with Barry and I asked them to watch if his body moved when he took a breath. They noticed that he did move, and I had them take another breath to see if their bodies moved too. We talked about what happens in our bodies when we take a deep breath (our lungs fill with air and expand, then get smaller as we breathe out). To demonstrate how this works, I used an expanding sphere ball, which we called, ‘The Breathing Ball’. The students seemed to really love watching the ball move as they were breathing. Next, we played a game called ‘Hiding Bell’ where students hid their eyes and I hid in the room and rang the bell. They then sat up and listened carefully to where they thought the sound was coming from and pointed in that direction. I came out of hiding to see if they were right, it was a lot of fun! We ended our day with doing some Freeze Dance. This version included some directions to help get their hearts beating (frog jumps, bear crawl, hopping, jumping jacks, apple jumps (jumping high to try and reach apples way up high in the tree), and free movement). When they heard the bell, they stopped, took a breath, and looked up at me. 🙂 We did this a couple times, then, we boogied on until our time was up! We ended with a couple more breaths with Barry! It was a fantastic first week!

The second week of Mindfulness and Movement we reviewed The Bell, and focused more on ‘Breathing’. I created an ocean in a very large glass jar (sand, rocks, sea glass, a sea turtle, and some blue water of course). 🙂 We discussed that this was the ocean and I demonstrated (by moving and shaking the jar) how the ocean can be calm, and that it can also be wild. We are a lot like the ocean, we too can be calm and wild, but the difference is that we can control whether we are calm or wild. A way that we can do this is through breathing. We talked about what it looks like and feels like when we take a deep breath. Our chest doesn’t move a lot, but our stomach moves out and in as we breathe. Students then laid down on the floor and were asked to rest their hands on their stomachs. I rang the bell a couple times for them to feel whether or not they could feel their stomachs moving up and down as they breathed. I explained to them that this was a lot like the ocean, calm waves rising up and down as they breathed in and out. I gave them each a small stuffed animal to ride in a boat on their oceans. I played the harmonica slow and calmly while they breathed slow and calmly as the animals on their stomachs went up and down on the waves, but if the music changed to fast and quick, they changed their breathing to do the same. It was a lot of fun, and a great way to introduce breath control and deep breathing!

Last week we learned about ‘Mindful Eating’. Mindful Eating is something we do in every classroom, every day at lunch time at MCS. We take a deep breath with the bell, and often times teachers will give students a prompt (What vegetables do you have in your lunch? What colors do you see in your lunch today? What is the crunchiest item in your lunch?). Then students have a few minutes to sit silently and think about what they are eating. Where did it come from? How does it taste? What is the texture like? After a few minutes we ring the bell again, take a breath, and discuss what we were thinking about, and maybe even what we’re thankful for in our lunches. For our M&M lesson on Mindful Eating we focused on carrots. We began by reading the book ‘The Carrot Seed’ and discussing gardens and what goes into making things grow from a seed, into food. I had a mini garden that I used to demonstrate planting the seeds, the sun shining (a yellow ball), and the rain falling (a wet, blue, cloud-shaped sponge that I squeezed over the garden). We learned how much work and energy go into growing one carrot, planting it, caring for it, picking it, shipping it, packaging it, and delivering it to a grocery store. Some families have gardens and can eat things right out of their gardens, but in the winter time, we can’t grow our own food as easily in Montana. So, our families pick out healthy foods for us at the grocery store and it’s amazing to think about that whole process from seed, to our mouths! I then gave students a slice of a fresh carrot. We looked at it closely, paying attention to the color and design, Next we felt it. Was it slimy, smooth, rough, wet? We then smelled it. Was it fresh, sweet, spicy? After that, I had students hold it up to their ear. Could they hear their carrot? No. 🙂 Then, I had them take a bite… could they hear it now? Yes! 🙂 How did it taste? What was the texture like? Were their teeth and tongues working hard to chew and swallow that bite? Could they still taste it after it was swallowed?  Next I gave them a slice of another carrot (a baby carrot), and I asked them to explore it on their own first using their senses. When I rang the bell, they took a deep breath and tasted that carrot. This was Mindful Eating. 🙂 They were eating quietly and thinking carefully and intentionally about what they were eating. After a few minutes I rang the bell again and had them take a breath and share what carrot they liked better and why? It was really amazing to hear them use such descriptive words. This lesson was such a blast, and I invite you all to try some Mindful Eating at home too!

As I mentioned, not all posts will be this long, and I appreciate you taking the time to read up on what we’ve been doing! I’m so excited to be working with all of your amazing children! Please contact me if you’d like any more information on the lessons we’ve been doing. This week in M&M, a ‘Yoga Mountain Hike’ in our classroom! Thank you for reading! 🙂

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