School district implements ‘Mindfulness’ program
During a recent Parkland School Board workshop, Director of School Services Brenda DeRenzo and Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development Kelly Rosario reported on social-emotional learning programs in the district.
“At Parkland, we’re ahead of the game,” DeRenzo said. “We implemented mindfulness starting with full-day kindergarten.
“This keeps moving with them K-12,” said DeRenzo.
She explained mindfulness encourages children to pay attention to the present moment, to be non-judgemental and to become aware of one’s feelings and emotions.
Mindfulness increases attention, improves attendance, leads to better grades, and reduces anxiety and depression, DeRenzo said.
“Our students need this intervention,” she explained. “It’s practicing social skills, just like you practice anything else.”
She noted the phrase “social-emotional learning” refers to the skills, attitudes, feelings and mindsets which help students succeed in school, in their careers and life overall.
DeRenzo said other terms for social-emotional learning includes soft skills, noncognitive skills, character strengths and whole child.
Through the mindfulness and social-emotional learning skills routine, students learn appropriate ways to resolve conflict, become aware of limits and expectations, and adjust their behavior accordingly. They learn to focus on tasks and activities for an extended period of time, even if the work is challenging and despite interruptions, DeRenzo said.
Rosario described the MindUp/Hawn Foundation curriculum which will be introduced at Parkland in the 2019-20 school year.
She said MindUp consists of brain focused strategies for learning and living which result in joyful learning, academic success and a powerful sense of self and community.
Rosario stated each MindUp lesson begins with background information on the brain and offers insights to the natural thoughtfulness of young people, leading to self-regulation of their behavior.
She said the program aims to create a culture of kindness and tolerance of differences.
Two board members commented on the MindUp curriculum.
“It’s good to put it in place now so we don’t have a crisis later,” Carol Facchiano said.
“It benefits everyone from little up,” stated Marie Maritch.
The district plans a professional development day on MindUp for staff in August and evening workshops for parents in late fall or early winter.