For the 2018-2019 school year, the Rutherford school district has continued a “mindfulness and wellness” initiative to the benefit of students and staff. This initiative takes a holistic approach, addressing mental health and school performance, as well as a mind-body connection to ensure student growth and success.
In an effort to teach students to be “well,” the schools have implemented a variety of new programs and have made more resources available to students. For example, Rutherford High School has begun “Meditation Mondays” in the school’s brand new meditation room to aid students in controlling stress and focusing on individual clarity. The high school has also established the yoga club this year lead by Holly Bacilo, a member of the RHS history department and certified yoga instructor. The school has even embraced yoga as an alternative to typical daily detentions by allowing students to participate in a yoga class on Wednesdays instead of an after-school detention, which gives students exposure to the practice while also encouraging them to reflect on their intentions. Another recent example of embracing wellness was a school-wide “no homework/no quiz” day that was piloted by the school’s Wellness Committee to temporarily relieve students of their academic workload.
At Washington School, the staff has taken an active role in promoting “mindfulness” in the classroom in a variety of ways. This year, teachers and staff have engaged in a book study of Dr. Carol S. Dweck’s best-selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which features the study of “growth” vs. “fixed” mindsets. By fostering a “growth mindset” mentality, teachers encourage students to accept failure as a normal step in the learning process as well as find comfort in being challenged. The teachers have also been meeting throughout the school year through a Professional Learning Community (PLC) to reflect and discuss different ways to promote the growth mindset in their classrooms. Further, they have also begun incorporating “brain breaks” in their classrooms along with other “stress-reducers” through the use of internet resources such as the application “Go Noodle.” In addition to their attention to mindfulness, Washington School has been visited by Core Yoga for Youth, which lead the students in PreK-3 through grade 3 in yoga and wellness activities.
At Lincoln School, the students have also been taught a variety of techniques to reduce stress, increase awareness, and be appreciative. Among these techniques are breathing techniques, such as “bunny four square” and “bubble breathing” to calm emotions. The students are encouraged to reinforce these techniques by taking visits to the “zen den” or taking “waking walks” to quiet the mind. The highlight of their morning announcements is Mrs. Clossey’s “Mindful Monday” yoga, breathing, and focusing exercises. Overall, the students are taught transferable skills that work at home or school, such as appreciating nature during a simple walk outside or being mindful when reading directions or checking over homework.
New techniques and resources are being added constantly to each school community as committees and teachers work to find different ways to help students manage stress and embrace a culture of wellness. Through active participation and the knowledge of resources, students can now become more successful academically, socially, and culturally through the growing lifestyle of “wellness” throughout the entire Rutherford Schools community.