Educators Cristiana Sardo Garcia and Charlene Hall of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District were awarded a $5,886 grant to bring the Mindful Zone to Union County elementary students.

The school already provides alternative seat choices such as swivel chairs, rocking chairs and bean bags, and has recently provided teachers with initial professional development to implement mindfulness lessons. Students spend most of their day in a school setting, so it is important that they feel successful at behavior management.

Concepts will be introduced about stress management, coping skills, emotional needs, differences, tolerance, and empathy, along with other topics that teach and build character education. A curriculum with specific units and lessons will be written to teach each concept. After the curriculum is developed, staff members and parents will receive training on these concepts. Collaboration with the Parent-Teacher Association is planned to fund additional supplies, assemblies, fundraisers, or events that would create awareness of the goals built into the grant.

Third-grade students will use flexible seating by replacing desks with tables, creating more open space. Softer, flexible seat choices will be made available to the students. For those students who may need a break outside of the classroom, classroom teachers, physical education teachers and therapists will collaborate to build a space that all students can access. Students will be introduced to this area as a space that is safe and conducive of a physical or mindfulness break. Books will be carefully selected to teach students about techniques to learn strategies to refocus, work through difficult things both in the classroom and outside of the classroom, and to build stamina. Students will have numerous opportunities to work in teams to create anchor charts to be displayed around the room as reminders on how to use the learned skills. These mindset posters will be used as reference points throughout the year to remind students about making good choices to reduce stress and anxiety.

Teachers will have an opportunity to provide data and feedback so that practices are continuously improved in making the goals of this grant successful. Counselors and psychologists around the district will be invited to provide additional training in their areas of expertise, provide feedback on the implementation of concepts, and collaborate with other to teach lessons that may be complementary to the existing curriculum. Other members of the community will also be invited to contribute to this project.

For more information, contact:

Cristiana Sardo Garcia, Project Coordinator
(908) 889-2148 (school)

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