Anti Bullying Program: Boulder’s Southern Hills Middle School

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Boulder’s Southern Hills Middle hosts social emotional learning week

By Amy Bounds Staff Writer Boulder Daily Camera

POSTED:   10/01/2017

Learning from anti bullying programAnti Bullying Program

Southern Hills Middle School students learned about yoga, meditation and other mindfulness activities along with participating in team-building activities with Avid4 Adventure. Students took a walk around a nearby lake to learn about mindful movement, learned calming breathing techniques and heard about the importance of a growth mindset during a day of workshops.

“We felt compelled to do this,” said Kristen Kron, a counseling intern at Southern Hills. “With the stress and anxiety students are feeling in this crazy world, they weren’t feeling very present. We wanted to give them strategies to help them be healthy and happy.”

Southern Hills counselors Victoria Valencia and Chris Congedo developed the Boulder school’s first Social Emotional Learning week with help from Kron and Dee Marie, founder of Calming Kids.

“No matter where you go, there’s this constant bombardment of stimuli,” Marie said. “There’s no way to disconnect. To shift to empathy, compassion and higher reasoning, we have to strengthen the part of the brain in middle schoolers that’s not fully developed.”

Southern Hills’ efforts are part of an overall school district focus on social emotional learning. The district previously brought in a five-member team from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning to conduct an analysis.

This school year, the district also hired 10 elementary counselors, two behavioral health advocates and a half-time coordinator. Before, only middle and high schools had counselors, with elementary counselors identified by schools at all levels as the highest budget priority.

At Southern Hills, Valencia said, she’s seeing lots of anxious kids.

“We want them to have tools available to help them cope with difficult situations and emotions,” she said. “We want kids to learn how to assess what they’re feeling and learn how to self-regulate.”

Kron added that the goal is to keep the project going by consistently integrating the practices students learned from the anti bullying program into the school day.

During the week, she led a session on meditation, asking students to sit with backs straight and focus only on their breathing. Then, she had them relax their muscles, one after the other, with music playing and lights dimmed.

“Right now, I just want you to breathe,” she told them.

Some students said they found the lesson relaxing, while others said it was challenging to stay still or not be distracted by noise around them.

Seventh-grader Julia Abboud said she liked that the workshops provided practical advice, but preferred more active ones to those with a lecture format.

She added that she would like the school to add a regular meditation time.

“That was pretty relaxing,” she said.

Classmate Tory O’Brien said her favorite was yoga.

“My mom goes to yoga every morning, but I’ve never been to a class. I was surprised, but I was actually pretty good at it. It was really fun.”anti bullying program for kids

Checking In for Self-Regulation

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Click here for a 2 minute anti bullying video demonstrating Checking In: CALMING KIDS ~ Checking-In

Checking InThe First Step Toward Mindfulness At CALMING KIDS, we strongly believe that a child who practices nonviolence is also a child who practices self-awareness and mindfulness. Children who are aware of themselves also tend to be more aware of the effects their actions have on others.

anti bullying videoOftentimes, kids who feel frustrated or angry will lash out by bullying or hitting one another before even taking a moment to assess what they are feeling and why they’re feeling that way. We created the CALMING KIDS curriculum for schools to teach children to pause after experiencing whatever it is they’re feeling, so that they may understand it — and themselves — better. As a result, the amount of bullying and violent acts among children is greatly reduced.

The first step to helping children achieve mindfulness is to teach them to “check-in” with their bodies and minds. With younger children, ages preschool through third grade, it can prove extremely helpful to start with an introduction to body awareness.

For children of all ages, CALMING KIDS approaches mindfulness with an exercise called “Checking In.” Children are encouraged to check in once or twice a day, especially when not feeling their happiest. They are taught to observe their postures and breath, which will help bring awareness to which emotions they’re feeling, and the kinds of thoughts that are coming to mind. In checking in, kids are learning how to get in touch with themselves and gain more control over how they express themselves. For a short anti bullying video tutorial on Checking In ~ click image above