Hillsboro Elementary School has focused on two new social and emotional learning pilots for the school year.
The first one is called Mindful Mornings. These are held before school on Monday and Wednesday mornings in the gym where the students sit according to their grades and classes. Activities start out with saying the Pledge of Allegiance and listening to announcements. They then say a student pledge.
The time ends with mindfulness exercises that guide students to center and focus on self regulation skills. The exercises are lead by Autumn Hardey, the elementary school counselor. A common one they practice is taking in deep breathes and slowly letting the air out.
“I’ve had numerous kids in passing say ‘I was mad over the weekend, but I just stopped and took three deep breathes,” said Hardey. “Even the teachers will say that there are mornings that they need it, too. And they use it in their classrooms which gives everyone a universal tool to use.”
The students end the time being dismissed by grades as they repeat their mantra: I am loved. I am valued. I matter.
“You don’t know what kids come to school with. They can put up a facade that everything is normal. But for some kids it’s tough,” said Principal Evan Yoder. “So these exercises that we do work with the kids and help them to know that we care about them. Even if it just helps one kid, it’s worth it. And I think it is helping lots of them.”
Fabulous Families is another program. The students and all adults who work in the building have been divided into 40 families of six-seven students. The ages range from kindergarten through fifth grade. The families meet every other Wednesday to do different activities together such as being outside, playing board games and working on community service projects.
“Everyone who works in this building is participating. There was apprehension initially since some staff do not typically work with certain age groups, but there has been relationships building already,” said Yoder. “It’s just another way to show that we care, and I don’t think we can ever show too much of that.”
Hardey divided the families up, working hard to place kids with an adult and other students they may not have had much contact with previously.
“I wanted a way to add another layer of support with the kids and to build a more family atmosphere. So now they see their “sister” or “brother” from their family, and then they can talk to someone they never would have otherwise,” said Hardy.
While it is too soon to know what the long term effects are, these programs do seem to be making a difference.
“I’ve gotten some positive feedback from parents,” said Yoder.
The student body has responded well.
“Kids and teachers have asked for than two days a week of Mindful Mornings. Amd every Wednesday, kids are excited about family day,” said Hardey. “These programs add another layer to the idea that there is an adult who and is there for me. They are embracing it.”