The VariQuest Visual and Kinesthetic Learning Suite Blog contains resources on classroom ideas, lesson plans, industry news, events, and offers throughout education.
As adults, we imagine relaxing activities in the context of going to take a walk surrounded by quiet and nature, or soaking in a bubble bath with soft music and candles. We seek calm in a place of our own, free from distractions and unwanted noise. For many students, school is a safe and familiar place where there are established routines and food is a guarantee. And unfortunately, we know there are students whose homes are sometimes not any of those things. So while we as educators make every effort to mentor and support our students in a safe environment in every way possible, we must also consider how to create personal spaces for when the world becomes too overwhelming. On top of all of this, we're in the midst of a global pandemic. Enter the Calming Corner.
There's no going around it, over it, or under it - so we gotta go through it. There's a lot going on in the world right now. And as much as we feel it, we know that our students feel it even more - as they learn to understand and process feelings and events they haven't felt or experienced before. There are lots of strategies students (and adults) of all ages can employ to take "brain breaks" to refocus and practice mindfulness to fully experience their present moments. Here are a few of them:
This helpful guide includes an explanation of the grant process, including a checklist (with samples!), and useful links and resources to find funding!
Kindness. Fairness. Respect. Self-Discipline. Courage. Perseverance. Responsibility. Cooperation. Trustworthiness. Integrity. Far beyond the reaches of science, math, and reading, our students are learning so much more with educators' help - understanding their feelings, working with others, and building confidence to take on the challenges that life will face them with. As teachers are often the first source of adult guidance outside the home, we owe it to our students to equip them with as many tools as possible to not only understand the solar system, but also their role as a fellow human in our great big world. What should we do if we see someone take something that doesn't belong to them? What should we do if we see a friend who is sad? How do we work with our peers to build a tall tower? What if someone tells us a secret they ask us not to share?
Integrity: to act according to what's right and wrong regardless of who knows. Going beyond knowing what's right and wrong, integrity encompasses many personality traits including honesty, fairness, responsibility, reliability, and others in our social-emotional learning unit series, all rolled into one. But how do you teach students to do the right thing, especially when no one is looking? What if you saw a friend cheat on a test? What if you broke something at a store? What if your teacher needs to leave the room? Learning about integrity within its context in a student's great big world and facilitating discussion around "what ifs" helps grow understanding about how it affects not only themselves, but also those around them.
Trustworthiness: deserving of trust, confidence, or reliability. As babies, our first experiences with trust come from our caregivers - in trusting that they'll feed us when we're hungry, clean us when we're dirty, and rock us to sleep when we're tired. As we grow, trust evolves even more into continuity and reliability in becoming comfortable with those around us - and as we learn about the great big world, we learn to look for honesty, integrity, and compassion from a trustworthy person. But recognizing trustworthiness is more than knowing that we shouldn't approach a stranger offering free candy. It's about students recognizing and developing trustworthy traits within themselves, to know what that means in others.
Cooperation: to work together in a positive way towards a common goal or purpose. From "circle time" to "group projects" and beyond, cooperation is a prevalent theme throughout all age levels of daycare, schooling, and the professional world. And cooperation can't operate alone - it requires some of our earlier social-emotional lessons to be taught first, as it incorporates kindness, fairness, respect, and so much more. Beginning in preschools where you're helping your friends, teaching cooperation (or teamwork) is a great way to motivate the class to work together and help them understand why that's important. But cooperation isn't just in the classroom - it's important to teach students to apply what they've learned in this lesson within their families, their activities, and their places in the world.
Responsibility: to do the things you are expected to do and to be accountable for your actions. From a very young age, children take pride in having responsibilities and tasks that they can learn from, and be proud of. We know that giving students jobs in our classrooms gives them understanding for their contributions to the greater learning community, and makes them feel included in the success of the group as a whole. But responsibility isn't just tasks on a to-do list - it also means that we are held accountable for our own actions. And this is an important part of developing maturity, and "growing up." Students are challenged each day with responsibilities in their classrooms and everyday lives, but especially taking responsibility for themselves.
Perseverance: to do your best to meet a goal even if it is a big challenge. When working through a difficult task, we all experience a wide range of emotions. We might be excited about making progress, frustrated about a setback, or exhausted over the amount of time or effort we've invested. "Never Give Up" is a phrase that comes to mind - to help pull through. Students are challenged to persevere each day in our classrooms and their everyday lives - as they learn about finding their roles in this great big world.
Courage: not letting your actions be controlled by your fears. In the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, the cowardly lion is on the adventure to see the wizard because he's filled with fear, and in the end [spoiler alert!] he learns about what courage really means. He had it all along. In a school setting, courage can be as simple as raising your hand, or as difficult as standing up to a bully. In the great big world, courage gives students the self-confidence to overcome their fears and do the right thing.
We hear a lot about mindfulness, or being fully present and aware in every moment, as it relates to distractions from our phones, computers, and TV screens, but is it about meditation, mantras, and breathing - or is it really something more?