MindUp curriculum presented to Parkland School Board



Originally published on wfmz.com

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – With the introduction of all-day kindergarten in the Parkland elementary schools in recent years, there is an ever-increasing need to get an early start on not only acclimating 5-year-old children to the classroom, but also in creating a positive culture and productive learning environment for students.

As a result, Parkland’s administrators have been implementing and promoting a special social and emotional learning program, accompanied by a special curriculum entitled “MindUp” from actress and activist Goldie Hawn’s educational foundation.

Such a programs were formally presented to the Parkland School Board on Tuesday and received positive reactions from the school directors.

The unique and timely programs teach children, beginning in kindergarten, to process and deal with stress in school with a technique called “mindfulness” followed by the MindUp curriculum.

Parkland’s Director of School Services Brenda DeRenzo explained social emotional learning (SEL). She said it describes the mindsets, skills, attitudes and feelings that help students succeed in school and life, such as a growth mindset, grit and a sense of belonging at school.

She said mindfulness is purposefully paying attention to the present moment with a nonjudgmental attitude and observing one’s own thoughts, emotions, behaviors and physical sensations. She said it’s also gently noticing when one’s distracted and returning to the present moment.

She said mindfulness reduces anxiety, depression symptoms, perception of chronic pain and improves emotional regulation.

Renzo commented both she and Parkland’s Curriculum and Professional Development Director Kelly Rosario have noticed since implementing the program, now entering its third year, how current Parkland second graders are noticeably calmer and much better able to deal with stress and stressful circumstances.

Students are instructed to take frequent “brain breaks” including but not limited to breathing and other physical exercises designed to calm students and promote a classroom environment of peacefulness and self-awareness.

However, Rosario added the techniques require on-going practice for them to be truly effective.

The soon-to-be-implemented MindUp curriculum outlines brain-focused strategies for learning and living resulting in focused classrooms, mindful learning and resilient students, she explained.

According to the presentation, it is an SEL curriculum of 15 lessons that promotes attention to oneself, tolerance to differences and a capacity for personal growth. Additionally, it educates students on brain functions and offers insights to students that lead to self-regulation of their behavior.

Rosario recently visited the Coatesville Area School District to observe the curriculum’s effects.

“You feel the kindness in the classroom,” she said.

It’s a culture-builder and transcends the classroom, Rosario said. She described it as an embedded program used throughout the day for five to 10 minutes during each class.

Next steps in the process include a webinar next month for elementary school counselors and psychologists followed by a district-wide staff professional development day this August. Rounding out the initiative will be additional webinars, planning calls, professional development days and parent workshops this fall.