Managing Stress Through Mindfulness in Providence Schools

Inspiring Minds’ ResilientKids curriculum brings calm to the classroom

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“I learned to believe in myself and to never give up.” That’s the feedback from one student participating in ResilientKidsTM, a curriculum developed to help children and adults manage stress, overcome obstacles, cultivate compassion, and thrive through adversity.

One of many initiatives led by the Providence-based organization Inspiring Minds, ResilientKids is currently offered in 93 classrooms in 21 public and charter schools in Cranston and Providence, serving a total of 2,350 students. By focusing on mindfulness practices, the program provides lessons that help students feel centered and find a safe place from which they can reset and start again.

And the impact on the school environment is noticeable. “Our school collaborators are seeing students demonstrating increased self-awareness and improved self-control and, ultimately, a decrease in the number of kids sent to the principal’s office with discipline issues,” explains program director Shannon Smith.

Teachers report improvements in the behavior of participating students in both the classroom and in the real world, with 76 percent seeing increased student awareness, as well as a drop in stress levels among middle and high school students. “We saw students less frustrated with difficult tasks and using their de-escalation techniques,” one teacher notes.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach, ResilientKids’ year-long curriculum is designed to help students and their teachers build self-awareness, executive functioning skills, balance, focus, and empathy from the inside out as they learn to respond to stressful situations calmly and confidently. They gain these skills through a range of activities that focus on concentration, from belly breathing to using a Hoberman Sphere (the colorful and expandable plastic toy you might remember from the ‘90s) to learn visual cues for inhaling and exhaling.

Kids especially love the glitter jar, a simple container filled with water and glitter that they make themselves. When the jar is shaken, it represents the thoughts and emotions that swirl around in the mind. When the water becomes still, it encourages students to find clarity in their thoughts and actions. 

Even teachers benefit, with a majority reporting that they incorporate the strategies into their own lives to better manage stress and work-life balance.

“This was by far one of the best experiences I have had in the classroom,” shares one teacher. “It has taught me the importance of being aware of myself and helped me share this with students on a daily basis.”

Volunteers placed in local schools build mentoring relationships with their assigned mentees. More than 600 individuals are trained each year to work directly with students in and out of the classroom, upholding a holistic focus on both academics and social/emotional development.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” explains executive director Melissa Emidy. “Our volunteer tutor/mentors empower each of our students to succeed by focusing and building on their individual strengths.” To learn more or to get involved, visit InspiringMindsRI.org.

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