The mission of Westport Day School Movement and Mindfulness curriculum is to provide a safe, gentle and therapeutic environment to our students where they are able to build a foundation of physical and mental wellness. This mission is carried out by inspiring and fascinating our students through the implementation of flexible, individualized lessons stemming from but not limited to, mindfulness, yoga, theatre and movement.
This curriculum is aligned with SHAPE standards. It is also important to note that although these standards provide us with a target, the students at WDS will be met at their own individual levels of competency.
Learner Goals for Movement and Mindfulness
Goal 1: The physically literate individual will demonstrate basic movement skills and mindfulness techniques through low-impact techniques and activities
Goal 2: The physically literate individual will apply therapeutic skills and techniques to their everyday lives stemming from mindfulness, yoga and fitness
Goal 3: The physically literate individual will demonstrate and apply learned skills to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle through mindfulness and physical activity
Goal 4: The physically literate individual will demonstrate healthy interpersonal and intrapersonal skills in order to achieve an overall positive and safe learning environment
Goal 5: The physically literate individual will value the interpersonal/intrapersonal skills, knowledge and benefits from mindfulness, movement, expression and fitness.
WDS Mindfulness and Movement Philosophy
This curriculum develops a holistic approach to the gentle student body at Westport Day School. Overall, it is a planned and sequential curriculum that allows students to gradually progress through fascinating, individualized lessons based on mindfulness, yoga, fitness, game skills and even theatre. WDS believes in providing lessons that are scientifically and data based in order to personalize each student’s education solely to the student’s needs. Meeting each student where they are is an important part of this curriculum since many of our students have faced clinical challenges that stem from depression, anxiety, learning disabilities. Research has found that these challenges decrease the overall health and wellness of students (ADAA, 2017). With this knowledge, we created a flexible, non-competitive curriculum in order to safely meet the wide range of physical competencies here at WDS. Understanding the three domains of physical education is a critical part in appreciating the benefits of physical education. The incorporation of the psychomotor, cognitive and affective/social domain allow WDS to develop a holistic approach that engages the “whole child”.
This curriculum helps students rediscover their inherent love for movement while also developing a compassionate individual towards themselves and others. Many of the therapeutic skills that are learned in this class are based on yoga and mindfulness activities that allow the students to develop their own personal practice. Routinely, students will be safely lead through guided meditations, gentle yoga and breathing exercises.
Mental health and physical health are intertwined within lessons while being supported by the five fitness components; flexibility, muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance and body composition. Ultimately, physical activity decreases levels of depression and anxiety among students thus explaining the powerful focus of fitness embedded within this curriculum. WDS has developed lessons from a variety of integral units where the students are met at their own fitness level and encouraged to safely explore and progress within their range of fitness. The alignment of the five fitness components to a variety of different unit topics will empower students to explore and develop their own life-long, personal physical education practice in their everyday lives.
"Exercise for Stress and Anxiety." Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2017.
Mindfulness as a Foundation
Mindfulness is paying attention with kindness in the present moment; it is an awareness of the mind and body activated by the 5 senses stemming through the inner-most self (Kabat-Zinn, 2017). It is also important to note that a non-judgmental awareness is extremely helpful in developing self-compassion for oneself.
Mindfulness is not a quick-fix but rather it is cultivated skill that has the ability to develop into a beneficial lifestyle. As the Mindfulness and Movement class progresses through a 10-month, 10-unit curriculum, the foundation of mindfulness plays an integral role. That is why the mindfulness and yoga unit is expressed in the beginning of the school year and then revisited throughout the rest of the units. A daily routine of yoga and mindfulness is an essential part in developing a therapeutic environment in which the students can feel comfortable and empowered by the content matter. Each day, students will participate in activities that provide building blocks for their own personal wellness and display their learning and growth through the use of a portfolio. The student’s portfolios include activities and tools that they have chosen for their own personal practice.
Staff, Mindful. "Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness." Mindful. Mindful, 04 Apr. 2017. Web. 13 Aug. 2017.
The Benefits of Physical Activity
Physical activity is an essential component of the overall wellness of our students here at Westport Day School. Physical activity enhances blood flow throughout the body and importantly to the brain. Studies have shown that students who have some type of physical activity within their daily routine score higher on tests, have fewer absences and fewer behavioral problems (SPARK, 2012). Similarly, physical activity decreases levels of cortisol, the stress hormone which in turn lowers anxiety and depression. On a biological level, students who perform at least 20 minutes of MVPA (moderate to vigorous exercise) will be providing their bodies with beta-endorphins that act as a natural painkiller without the side effects.
"Is It Physical Education or Physical Activity?" SHAPE America. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2017.
"How Physical Activity Affects Academic Performance." SPARK PE. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2017.
Classroom Climate Plan: A Mindful Space
The classroom will provide a positive, therapeutic climate that will invite students to become self-empowered, motivated and fascinated learners. The overall climate of the classroom is dependent on factors including the integration of the five senses, the content matter within the units, the teaching styles and the classroom environment all provide for this climate.
The goal is for all students to be captivated by the activities so they intend to transfer the physical activity into their everyday lives. The variety of activities will focus on the interrelationship of the mind, body and spirit. Students will be guided through meditations and low-impact physical activity in order to develop their own personal wellness portfolio. When all my students feel comfortable, empowered and fascinated about their mindfulness and movement class then the desired class environment has been fostered.
The physical environment of the classroom will be welcoming and supportive to all students. As a facilitator and teacher I will model the empathetic and compassionate behavior that is beneficial and therapeutic to the student’s well-being will be promoted. Students will create personal motivational and inspirational posters aligned with different units that will illuminate the well-lit learning environment. Students can also expect calm and inviting music to flow from the room. In addition, certain plants, waterfalls and cool colors will surround the walls of the class in order to purposely enhance the mindful space.
The student’s brain is wired for pleasure and selectiveness thus learning should be joyful. To grab the student’s minds is to motivate them. Facilitation of the students will center on the autonomy of the classroom where students are given the opportunity to explore freely and expressively while also having structure, guidance and safety. Establishing a fun atmosphere with patience and empathy towards the feelings and emotions of students is essential to build strong, trusting relationships amidst all of the participators of the class. These relationships will enable the students to positively socialize their ideas thus building off their prior knowledge or experiences. In turn, this aspect will help the students gain necessary social skills that are critical in today’s society.
Diversity of activities and students will correlate significantly from the school’s demographics and curriculum standards. However, the diversification of Physical Education is dependent on the variety of activities that correlate to different parts of the world and different cultures such as buddhist principles of mindfulness and hindu techniques of yoga while staying secular in nature. Students in this class will be encouraged to participate in different types of activities that have been founded around the world thus expanding their horizons of physical education.
Diversity of learners is also embraced within WDS. As a teacher, by showing interest in learning the native languages that are reflected in our classroom creates a positive environment for students. Furthermore, students are provided with equal learning opportunities focusing on their abilities rather than their disabilities. Diversity and equality will break the barriers of socialization between different cultures as well as students with different sexual orientations. This construct allows students to develop and prolong an open mindedness that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Theatre as Therapy
As a thespian and as an acting performance minor graduate, students will experience the positive, therapeutic effects that theatre has to offer. Many students from WDS have clinical challenges that have stunted their affective/social domain of learning. Theatre has the ability to provide a safe and therapeutic environment for the development a variety of skills.
Many of the features of theatre and acting provide students with opportunities to develop a sense of perspective and empathy towards themselves and others. Looking through the lenses of certain characters and developing social cues in a stable environment allows the students to develop an emotional empathy towards those characters and in real-life. Certain theatric activities are carefully and safely chosen and offered by the facilitator that promote a wide array of interpersonal and intrapersonal benefits.
Certain yoga poses correlate to certain states of mind such as strength, stability and tranquility while theatrical movement and voice exercises can provide students with the integration of the mind and body as well. Students expand from their experiences with these activities and start to understand the processes between the body and mind thus allowing students to develop an appreciation and value for the three aspects of physical education: mind, body and soul.
Developing a playful and student-supported environment will allow students to take chances during improvisation activities. By incorporating improvisation games that encourage students to accept each other’s ideas and add to them, creates a place where students can collaborate creatively in a playful manner. “It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative the the individual discovers the self.” -D.W. Winnicott
National Standards for K-12 Physical Education Copyright 2013, SHAPE America –Society of Health and Physical Educators, 1900 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191, www.shapeamerica.org.All rights reserved.