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Schools Look To Teach Mindfulness To Students

Teaching mindfulness may be the answer for public schools dealing with social and emotional health, at least that’s the belief of some local educators.

Through the Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition, an agency within The Resource Center, professional development and education curriculum regarding mindfulness and movement has been made available throughout Chautauqua County. Officially titled the Mindfulness and Movement Initiative, a team of seven people from the coalition and contracted educators are attempting to address a need in the area for social and emotional awareness.

The initiative primarily focuses on educating students and teachers on finding outlets for stress and anxiety. Examples of handling stress include meditation and relaxing movement like yoga.

Patrick Smeraldo, the agency’s director, said the new initiative stemmed from three previous summer education institutes held in recent years that gathered teachers and administrators from all around the county. Also, the team is comprised of coalition employees and Falconer Central School teachers.

Smeraldo had a working relationship with educators from Falconer who were already incorporating mindfulness techniques.

“All of the team works in Falconer, and the coalition has an agreement with Falconer to experiment with some practices that they have used districtwide with some curriculum and items that Chautauqua Connections Inc. has provided,” Smeraldo said.

More recently, Prevention Works has partnered with the initiative to provide an additional level of support. Specifically, Prevention Works will be providing instruction on the PAX Good Behavior Game.

“We are enthusiastic about collaborating with the Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition in an effort to train more teachers and professionals working with youth on the Trauma Informed PAX Good Behavior Game,” said Melanie Witowski, Prevention Works executive director. “This practice helps children improve self-regulation and co-regulation with peers. There are so many youth and families that are struggling with mental emotional health issues, which often leads to using substances, whether it’s to escape or cope with their stressors. Studies have shown that even one year of the PAX Good Behavior Game significantly reduced lifetime drug use and problematic behaviors.”

Now, Smeraldo hopes the initiative can provide professional development to school districts, local nonprofits and even for employers.

In October, the Mindfulness and Movement team will be providing professional development to the local Head Start program. October is also recognized as the National Bullying Prevention month.

“The team has come together to do professional development training and offer some programming for children in this field to assist children with anxiety and stress they may be feel,” Smeraldo said. “The initiative has also discovered that adults who have stress as work have used these practices to come to work on a regular basis and use coping strategies to be effective at their job.”

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