Missoula Community School

Find Your Breath

Happy September friends!

It has been so great this last week seeing all your children bring their wonderful energy back into our school.  Community School just feels complete with them all here!

Your kiddos did a beautiful job with this week’s first mindfulness lesson of the year!  We started our mindfulness lesson by talking about our bell.  The kids helped remind me what to do when we hear the bell ring — we stop what we are doing, take a breath, and look at whoever rang the bell.  After some bell discussion, we met our friend Barry the Breathing Bug.  Barry can be a little shy at times, but everyone helped Barry feel comfortable by taking deep breaths and keeping our bodies calm.  We noticed that when Barry takes a deep breath his body stretches big, and when he breathes out his body curls in and gets smaller.  As we took breaths with Barry we noticed that our bodies did the same thing!  Barry brought out the breathing ball, and we all took turns expanding the ball while breathing in, and shrinking the ball while breathing out.  We talked about how our lungs in our body do the same thing.

After our serious discussion time, we lightened things up by playing a few games!  We started by playing hide and seek with the bell.  Friends were a bit skeptical over how the bell was going to play hide and seek.  Everybody hid their eyes while I hid in different parts of the room.  Once hidden, I rang the bell and your kids pointed in the direction that they heard the bell ring.  The kids’ ears were so keen that not only were they able to point to where I was hiding by just listening to the sound, but some of them even noticed that when I was hiding behind the cupboards it sounded like the bell was ringing from a few feet away from me!  It was a great opportunity to squeeze in a few words about the physics of sound, and how it bounces off of different surfaces.

Next we played some mindful freeze dance with the bell.  Your children moved and grooved there bodies in different ways throughout the classroom.  When the bell rang they froze and took a breath… even though the music was still playing!  It takes a lot of self control to go from dancing your heart out to being completely still, but all of your kids did a marvelous job!

We ended mindfulness by dancing back to circle and noticing how our bodies felt after so much movement.  Friends noticed that their hearts were beating faster, their bodies felt warmer, some said that it made them feel tired, and others noted that the movement had made them hungry!  We took a few more breaths with the breathing ball, and said goodbye to Barry until next time!

The games that we played today can be easily incorporated in your own home!  You could use your own bell, or instrument of choice to play hide and seek with.  You could even spice it up a little bit by giving your child the chance to hide and ring the bell while you look for them!  Freeze dance is always a much loved, classic game. It is a great rainy day activity that helps kids (and adults) get their heart beating, but also with learning how to turn the wiggles on and off at any given moment.

Thanks families for all the support, and for such a great first week back at school!  I’ll be looking forward to seeing all of your bright, shining faces next week!

 Warmest regards,

                        Ashlie

Mindful Movement and a Listening Walk

Last week in Mindfulness and Movement we set up an obstacle course in one of the large rooms upstairs at school. Children crawled through a lion’s den, tip-toed on a zig-zag line on the floor, moved like a turtle, crab walked, and jumped over logs. Lots of fun to move our bodies!

This week we talked about our five senses and read the story ‘The Listening Walk’. After the book we went for our own listening walk in the neighborhood. Voices were off and we were listening to as many sounds as we could hear. When we got back to school we discussed all the different things we heard when we weren’t talking. Everyone did a wonderful job on our quiet, peaceful, listening walk. 🙂

Thank you, Little Cloud and Earth Day

The week before parent-teacher conferences students got together with Julia to put together a gift for the teachers. Teachers got an unexpected thirty minute break to go get coffee, go for a walk, work on portfolios, or just choose a way to spend that time that felt good to them. Each student was given a card and an envelope to color and dictated something kind and loving to give to their teachers. They were bundled together with a ribbon and given to teachers upon their return as a ‘Thank you for being wonderful’ gift.

Last week in Mindfulness and Movement we read the book Little Cloud and discussed how we are all good at different things. Everyone has something to offer and everyone is a teacher. We talked about how beautiful is that we all have our own strengths and how important it is to support one another and treat each other with love and kindness. Each child was given a little cloud (cotton ball) to remind them to love themselves for who they are.

This week in M&M we celebrated Earth Day. We talked about how amazing our earth is and why it’s so important to take good care of it and everything living on it. We read the book ‘Wherever You Are’ by Mem Fox and painted Earth with watercolor on coffee filters. At the center of the earth there is a red heart drawn on it to remind ourselves to ‘love every living thing’.

Peace, Community, and Taking Deep Breaths

Our last Mindfulness and Movement lesson we focused on peace and community. We discussed what the word ‘peace’ means, and what we all think of when we hear the word peace. Then, we worked together with kindness and respect to find hidden puzzle pieces that were hidden all over in the classroom. Students brought them to the grey carpet and worked together to put the puzzle back together. It was great watching them work together and communicate with one another to complete the task!

This week in Mindfulness and Movement we focused on breath control. We discussed how helpful it is to take deep breaths when we’re upset. Students then practiced taking deep breaths and shallow breaths, loud breaths and quiet breaths, fast breaths and slow breaths, and finally holding our breath. We then played a game where we focused on controlling our breath by using a straw and a puffball trying to blow the puffball on a zig-zag tape track on the floor. We then learned how to take ‘feather breaths’. We practiced breathing in through our nose, and out through our mouths blowing the feather. They did a great job and we had a lot of fun!

Mindful Moment-

Pick an activity at home you can complete together, perhaps cooking a meal or a group art project. Discuss how communities can be both large or small, but that it’s important to always show each other love and kindness and communicate our thoughts and feelings in a respectful way! 🙂

Expectations and Using a Mindfulness Jar

Last week in Mindfulness and Movement we addressed our MCS expectations. We had a discussion about rules, and what they are and why we have them. We agreed that rules help teach us what we should and should not do, and they are mostly in place to keep us safe both physically and emotionally. We talked about our expectations at Missoula Community School to help us remember to ‘be kind, be safe, and be respectful’. We are all teachers here, and we can help each other remember to be kind, safe, and respectful.

This week in Mindfulness and Movement we read the book “Moody Cow Meditates”. The story is about a cow who has an awful day, and his grandfather comes over to show him how a ‘mind jar’ works. For every angry/negative thought he has, he puts a pinch of glitter into a jar of water that represents his mind. They close the jar and shake it up to show how our minds can be full of negative thoughts sometimes, but that if we sit and breathe and watch the glitter fall to the bottom, our minds calm down too and we start to feel better!

Mindful Moment-

Create your own ‘Mind Jar’ at home. Fill any jar with a lid with water and add some glitter to it (I put a little water color in mine too for color). Seal the jar and shake it. Watch what happens when you sit and watch the jar while taking deep breaths. As the glitter slows down and settles to the bottom, our minds are able to calm down as well. It’s a wonderful tool for self soothing during times when we’re feeling difficult emotions.

Family and Emotions

Last week in Mindfulness and Movement we discussed what a family is. A family is the group of people you live with who love and take care of each other. All families are different, and they are all beautiful and special because they are all filled with love. We read ‘The Family Book’ by Todd Parr and each child drew a picture of their family and wrote what they love about them.

This week we explored our emotions through yoga. We read the book ‘Today I Feel Silly’ by Jamie Lee Curtis. After the book we went through the pages again and did a pose for each emotion. It was a lot of fun to move our bodies and talk about the ways we can take care of our emotions and accept all of them, because they are all a part of who we are.

Mindful Moment- Help your children learn to label their emotions. When children are better able to describe how they are feeling, the more empathetic we can be with how we help them learn to work through that emotion. Model it in yourself and help explain all the different feelings we feel as human beings. All feelings are ok to feel, but some of them don’t feel as good as others, and if we take care of those emotions, we can get to a place that feels better. We can do that through taking space, taking some breaths, doing Turtle Time, getting a drink of water, or even exercising!

Anh’s Anger and The Skin We Are In

Last week in Mindfulness and Movement we read the book ‘Anh’s Anger’ and discussed different ways we can take care of our anger. It’s a wonderful story that describes anger as a creature who makes you say and do mean things to people you love, but if you take care of your anger by breathing, sitting, taking some space etc, your anger will get smaller and smaller until it goes away. I demonstrated this by using a balloon that represented anger. As I blew the balloon up I pretended to get more and more angry with each breath. Once it was full, we discussed how if I don’t take care of my anger, I don’t have control over it (I let it go and it flew across the room). If I take care of my anger and take some space and some deep breaths, the anger gets smaller until it goes away (I slowly let the air out of the balloon as I took deep breaths). It’s ok to feel angry, we just want to learn how to take care of it.

 

This week we discussed Martin Luther King Jr. and how he was a wonderful man who worked very hard to make sure that all people treated each other with love, kindness and respect. We don’t have school Monday because every year around his birthday, we take a day to honor him and the remarkable man he was. We read the book ‘The Skin You Live In’ and talked about the many ways we are different, and the many ways we are the same. We talked about all the amazing things our skin does for our body and how beautiful it is that we are all unique and different, and just the same too. We all have a heart with feelings, an incredible brain and body, we all have people we love in our lives, and we all need food, water and sleep to survive. Every child went home with a little heart drawn on them to remind them to love the skin they’re in and to love others. It was a wonderful circle.

 

Mindful Moment-

Ask your child to show you some of the different ways you can take care of your anger and other big feelings (take deep breaths, Turtle Time, take some space, drink some water).

 

Upcoming Events

We have a couple mindful events coming up!

First is our parent meeting, which will take place at the school on January 12th, 3:30pm-4:30pm.  During this time our mindfulness coordinator will share what your children have been doing at school when they visit her each Friday.  This will be followed by a chance for parents to have a discussion.

Second is our mindful book club.  This is our book club’s first book!  We are reading The Whole Brain Child, by Daniel Siegel.  This is a great book that weaves well with the MCS philosophy, and whose ideas are used with success at school.  The meeting dates are Jan 20, Feb 3 and Feb 17 at 7:15pm.  The first meeting will be at the Good Food Store.

We hope to see you at one or more of these events!  We have a couple more ideas up our sleeves for this year and will provide you with information about them as they take a little clearer shape.

Expressing Yourself

Last week in Mindfulness and Movement Julia was absent and Gerri filled in! Classes spent time doing Brain Gym movements and talking about peace! Gerri then read ‘The Peace Book’ by Todd Parr and discussed what peace is. What does peace look like, sound like, and feel like? Everyone had a lot of fun doing Mindfulness and Movement with Gerri, and I’m so happy she was able to fill in!

This week we read the book ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance’ by Giles Andreae and discussed how we are all good at different things. Isn’t it beautiful that we all have different strengths and talents and that we can count on one another to help us with things that we’re not good at, and that we can help others with what we are good at. I wanted children to remember that they are valuable and important. Following the story and discussion we did a freeze dance/movement activity where each child was given a scarf to dance with. There was one blue scarf that I would trade out with each child’s scarf and when the music stopped, whoever had the blue scarf would share something they are good at with the class. They could share something they love doing or something that makes them feel proud. It was really sweet listening to what everyone shared!

Mindful Moment- This week we discussed how dancing and art are both forms of expression, and that there is no such thing as good or bad when it comes to creatively expressing yourself. Take a moment in the next week to either create some art as a family or have an impromptu dance party. Have fun and express yourselves! 🙂

Safe Bodies and Being Thankful

Our last mindfulness lesson we focused on having a safe body and learning how to control our movements. We read the book ‘I See Kindness Everywhere’ and played three movement games. The first game was passing a spoon around with a marble on it trying to be so calm that the marble wouldn’t fall off. The second game we used Gentle George (a stuffed green monster) and passed him around the circle using just our elbows. For the third game we laid on our backs and passed around a balloon using our feet. We discussed how important it is to be kind others and to use our bodies in a safe way.

This week’s mindfulness lesson focused on thankfulness. We read the book ‘Giving Thanks’ that discusses all the things the Earth provides for us and how much we have to be thankful for in nature. Next we shared what we were most thankful for and their responses were written on a paper that will be hung up in each classroom. Lastly we thanked the different parts of our bodies and all the things we can do because of them (feet for walking, running, jumping etc). After we discussed how amazing our bodies are we had a dance party!

Our mindful minute for this week is: Before going to bed each night, share with your family one thing you are thankful for. Practice gratitude