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‘Mindfulness Mornings’ Instill Peace And Focus In Middle Gate Students



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Before the school day started its course, the morning had already quietly commenced for a small collection of students at Middle Gate School for the last time on May 11.

It was the last meeting of “Mindfulness Mornings,” a club focused on teaching mindfulness, focus, self-regulation, and calm. Younger students had their last meeting on Tuesday, and this was the last meeting for the older group.

Facilitator and School Counselor Melissa Arsenault explained she and Paraprofessional Marlene Bucci were applying the Mindful Schools curriculum they were trained in.

According to Bucci, a typical morning for these students are ten minutes exploring sensory bins, a craft, then time on the yoga mats for an “imagination vacation” or read-aloud, and finishing with a sun salutation.

The day’s craft was finishing up mandalas. At the last meeting the week prior, students had outlined their mandalas with puff paint in repeating patterns stemming out from a center like a spider web.

“We talked about how that’s a connection to their heart,” Arsenault said about the center motif. “Now they’re filling in with watercolor to complete the picture.”

The children, all who elected to join the club, worked without conversation between each other, and seemed very focused and drawn in to their work. The blinds were drawn behind them, letting some natural light through, the overhead fluorescents not yet activated for the day.

Bucci explained that last year, the club was more of an intervention program, but this year, the co-facilitators took it in a different direction.

“We opened it up to the whole school. Any parent who wanted their child to participate, could,” said Bucci.

A few of the around twelve students voiced to The Newtown Bee how they applied what they learned in the club to their lives.

“I used a type of breathing called ‘dandelion breath’ when I was getting nervous for the dentist, because dandelion breath is a calming type of breathing,” Annika Guzy said, in between watercolor brush strokes.

“I usually take deep breaths when I’m doing a math test and I’m stuck on a problem, so I don’t get worked up,” Vivian Stupka said, working alongside her.

As students finished their work to their satisfaction, each child rose at their own pace and went to the yoga mats. When everyone was assembled, all were directed to lay back.

“We’re going to take an imagination vacation. You can close your eyes or find something to focus on. It’s quiet mind, calm body,” said Bucci to the class, book in hand.

Before the story lifted off, Bucci asked the class to define “grounding,” a review question.

“Grounding is when you’re mindful,” said Annika. “You calm yourself down.”

Bucci proceeded with the imagination vacation, which was a descriptive narrative about entering one’s own spaceship, and traveling the galaxy.

“Can you see the moon, the stars?” asked Bucci. “Can you see any other planets?”

After everyone had surfaced from their mental vacation, the kids shared what they saw in space. One saw the Milky Way, one traversed the planet Mercury. Other fantasy narratives were eagerly shared by the participants, too.

Then, it was time for a sun salutation. The yoga practice was styled for kids and set to upbeat music with lyrical directions. Every kid sang along.

Over the course of the hour, the feeling in the club was unchanged from a baseline of peacefulness. All who participated seemed to apply rapt attention to what was happening in the moment.

“It’s scientifically proven to help kids reduce stress — kids with ADHD, anxiety — the goal is to help them focus better in the classroom,” said Bucci. “If we notice they have difficulties in the school day, we can remind them of the strategies that we learned.”

Bucci added she and Arsenault encourage the kids to teach their parents what they learned, and the club will continue to be offered to the entire school next year.

“It’s a nice way to start our day,” said Arsenault, remarking on the atmosphere.

Reporter Noelle Veillette can be reached at noelle@thebee.com.

Annika Guzy and Vivian Stupka share a paint pallet to complete their mandalas. James Adriani, William Tilbe, and Giovanna Ribiero discuss the morning’s club events with school counselor Melissa Arsenault. The class takes an “imagination vacation” with a narrative facilitated by Marlene Gucci, then all participate in a sun salutation, with Amelia Herrmann, Vivian Stupka, and Marlene Gucci pictured.
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