Today’s story has been graciously written by Cassandra Troughton, a teacher’s assistant working in a special education classroom in Canada.
Mindfulness came into my life as I was deep into my own self-education. I began practicing mindfulness, along with the techniques and aspects associated with being mindful and present. I started going to yoga, began meditating, found opportunities throughout the day to stay present and truly be in the moment, and opened up my heart in expressing gratitude more often.
Mindfulness had changed my life immensely. It developed me as a human being in ways that going to school never had. It became a part of my life. It was a tool I used to get myself through the busy and hectic days working in an elementary special needs classroom. My job was fun and rewarding, but it took a lot out of me. Practicing daily mindfulness was the key.
Three years ago, my self-education journey sent me on a documentary binge. I watched a few documentaries, not just about mindfulness, but about bringing mindfulness into schools. Every documentary I watched, every book and article I read that promoted mindfulness, yoga, and meditation in schools intrigued me, because in every example, children benefited hugely, in all aspects of life!
This, of course, lead me to the realization that mindfulness should be a daily practice in ALL schools for ALL children, and although I may not have had the control to change that in all schools in an instant, I did have the control to change that within MY school at least.
The very next day, I chatted with my teacher partner about what I had learned and how practicing daily mindfulness could benefit our students.
Step One: Daily Mindful Moments
We created a plan to host “Mindful Moments” in a spare classroom right after the morning bell. These “Mindful Moments” would be offered to any student who needed some extra time to decompress in the morning before settling in to class.
We ran it Monday to Friday from 8:35 to 8:45 a.m. before school started:
- On Mondays, we quietly and mindfully colored gratitude notes and put them in a jar to be read at the end of the week.
- Tuesdays to Thursdays were a mix of meditations, guided breathing techniques, relaxation activities, and yoga and stretching games.
- Fridays were for reading our gratitude notes and sharing them by posting them on the wall.
What started off as a trickle of kids soon became an entire class full of kids. There was even one teacher who bought her class EVERY morning.
Step Two: Weekly Mindfulness Club at School
The following year, I had more of my own time to commit to developing some sort of mindfulness class and resources for our students to access. I decided to turn mindfulness into a Mindfulness Club, which ran Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during afternoon recess.
I knew I wanted to introduce so much more in our Mindfulness Club, but I didn’t want to throw all that information out to our kiddos at once. Instead, I decided to create themed days for the club.
- Monday would be “Mindful Mondays,” and on this day, we would do breathing activities, guided relaxations, short meditation practices, etc. It was our day of silence and breath.
- Wednesdays became our “Wind-Down Wednesdays,” and they were days for activities like mindful coloring, reading stories on mindfulness, doing kindness/empathy fostering activities, and holding sharing circles.
- Fridays turned into “Flexy Fridays,” and those days were by far, the most favorite themed day. Flexy Fridays were days filled with yoga and stretching activities. These days began usually with a Yoga Pose of the Day we would all learn together, and afterwards, on some days, we would do a yoga video, play a yoga game, or read a yoga story. On other days, we did partner yoga or took turns leading yoga sequences.
The kids loved it, and our little mindfulness crew bigger and bigger each year.
There were a few things I did consistently each day in Mindfulness Club, regardless of what themed day it was; I began and ended my club the same each day.
- For the beginning of each Mindfulness Club, we would gather in a circle and take one (or a few) deep breath(s) together before we broke off into whichever activity was to follow.
- We ended each Mindfulness Club meeting with a quick body scan. I would have kids sit down and close their eyes and notice their body and how it felt after the club, and afterward, when they noticed how they felt, each would do a feeling check-in with me, either by saying how they felt or gesturing with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
For a while I used a scale of 1-5 system and for two years, I tracked the average of all my students’ happiness levels! It wasn’t a perfect system, but I could eventually see trends. It helped me adjust my Club to the needs of the group.
Step Three: Online Mindfulness Club
Unfortunately this year, school was shut down due to the current pandemic, and my students, who had found a safe place in Mindfulness Club, were stuck at home and stuck in their thoughts and left feeling anxious and isolated.
I felt for them, and I wondered if there was a way for me to move Mindfulness Club onto a website, where students could still feel somewhat connected and be able to do grounding practices at home. At this time, more than ever, I believe mindfulness was needed for my students.
Soon after, my idea became a reality. I created my website: Mindfulness Club ONLINE!
In this new version of Mindfulness Club, I have been trying to stick with my original themes as much as I can. I make new posts each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday filled with mindfulness activities, videos, and games, fun for the whole family to do at home.
On this site, I’ve added some other fun resources, and there’s even a virtual Gratitude Wall,where kids can submit notes of gratitude, and their posts will be featured at the end of the week.
It’s been a ton of fun to build and put this site together, and it was actually easier than I expected (thanks to the wealth of resources I acquired from Kids Yoga Stories).
I hope my Mindfulness Club will inspire or give others ideas on how to spread some of these essential mindfulness practices out there. If anyone would like to connect or has any questions, I am more than willing to help!
Step Four: Resources for Mindfulness Club
Here are two resources you might like to run your own Mindfulness Club:
This pack includes three done-for-you resources Mindful Kids in 10 Minutes a Day: Preschool-2nd Grade, Mindful Kids in 10 Minutes a Day: 3rd – 5th Grade, and Mindful Moments for Middle Schoolers.
This juicy pack is full of handy resources that you can bring to your students.
#3 Download the printable
Download the poster below to see which resources would suit which days in your mindfulness club.
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
MINDFULNESS CLUB FOR K-3
MAY WE SUGGEST…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassandra Troughton (a.k.a. Miss T) is an educational assistant from Canada. She has worked with Edmonton Public Schools for over seven years, primarily in the special needs adaptability program (Gr. 1-6) and as the Health and Wellness lead at her school in Edmonton, Alberta. Her passions include health, wellness, and the practice of mindfulness! She loves passing on her knowledge of mindfulness to her students and fellow educators. You can find her at https://mindfulmisst.com/.