Mindfulness and Movement Creates New Norms, Support for Students
Submitted By: Amanda McRae | Charter School Institute
Charter School Finds Investment in Mindfulness and Movement Worthwhile
New Legacy is a small public charter school located in northwest Aurora. The school opened its doors in 2015 to serve pregnant and parenting high school students and their children, ages 0 to 5. In the 2019-2020 school year, 95 students were enrolled, ranging in age from 14 years, to 21 years, and 60 children attended with their parents. Since its inception, New Legacy has worked to empower students to create a legacy of education, quality parenting, and personal success.
The New Legacy team (a group comprised of Early Learning Center educators, high school educators, support staff, and administration) was aware of the many benefits of mindfulness and movement activities for teenagers, especially teen parents, but struggled with how to implement these opportunities consistently for all students without it hinging on a specific class, or specific teacher. As a solution, the high school schedule was restructured mid-year to include a 30-minute afternoon break. Monday through Thursday, the break was used for a “Mindfulness and Movement” initiative, and each Friday the break was used for “All-School Olympics.”
In the afternoons Monday through Thursday, all high-schoolers gathered and were given two minutes to select an activity of their choice for Mindfulness and Movement. Then, the activities commenced for 30 minutes. Students who were wound up and needed to let off some steam opted for a competitive game of the school-favorite “trashball,” a basketball style game where big red trash cans are used as the baskets. Others who were overwhelmed or emotionally exhausted chose to spend their time in the meditation room, a dimly lit room with a soft guided meditation playing and fidget toys, yoga mats, and coloring sheets available. School staff led the rotating options of activities Monday through Thursday including dancing, walking, weightlifting, volleyball, and the aforementioned meditation and trashball.
Every Friday, student advisory classes took turns leading the All-School Olympics, a series of games usually filled with silly challenges, and plenty of competitive spirit. The goal of All-School Olympics was to increase movement and physical activity, as well as build community for the entire school. The Olympics were 30 minutes long; although according to one teacher, “sometimes we cancelled the entire advisory period and made the Olympics longer.”
As a result of the new school schedule, on any given afternoon, you might walk in the gym to find students cheering and sweating, hyped up about scoring a trashball basket, or you may find a group of students mindfully coloring in the dimly lit meditation room, while a salsa class grooves in the room next door. No matter the activity, all students and staff were taking care of their brains and bodies. Afternoon breaks became a welcome physical and psychological break for staff and students alike!
The community effort to move minds and bodies has helped to build school culture and cultivate the New Legacy community. The last block of the day became more bearable after the brain re-fresh, and in the hallways you could overhear a pleasant bickering between teams, and jokes about that day’s games, whether it occurred during Mindfulness and Movement or the All-School Olympics. As the Health and Wellness teacher and Lower-Level Math teacher shared, “This schedule change has made the day more feasible. It’s had a positive impact on students and teachers alike. Everyone does better with a little physical activity and brain space in the midst of a long day.”
New Legacy sustained this work even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Students logged-on each day to complete a Mindfulness and Movement virtual course with their teachers, which offered a small healthy break from pandemic focus. New Legacy will continue to sustain this work by keeping structured time for students to move their bodies, release stress in healthy ways, and connect with their peers in the years to come, whether it’s online or in-person. If distance learning continues in 2020-21, New Legacy will continue the Mindfulness and Movement virtual course. If school buildings re-open, New Legacy will find the safest way to continue the practices of Mindfulness and Movement, as well as All-School Olympics, in-person.
For more information about New Legacy Charter School or the activities described in this story, contact the office at (303) 340-7880.
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