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Awarded Grant Summaries

Wendi Petersen, School Counselor, West Park Elementary

Description and Need: 
In this project, students will be taught a variety of calming strategies and attention-focusing methods to help them be ready to learn. Classrooms will also be provided with a Calming Caddy that students can use to regulate their emotion and re-focus on instruction. Research shows that teaching mindfulness strategies in the classroom increases student learning. The practices of mindfulness include explicit attentional training and emotional regulation. Students are guided in exercises to focus their attention and help their brain focus on learning. BIST (Behavior Intervention Support Team) that the district is using to help with behavior, uses T.A.P.S. (Total and Perfect Silence) as a way to calm students and focus them on learning. It helps students in regulating responses to impulses. Among children, outcomes of being able to self-regulate and focus include stress management, emotional well-being, and cognitive performance.

How project meets Instruction Goals and Mission Statement:
The CPS Mission states "Engaging All Learners to Achieve Success." If students are distracted and restless they are unable to focus on instruction. Our mission includes a statement about meeting the unique learning needs of every student. For students from poverty or stress/trauma-induced environments, their brains respond differently than those of higher socio-economic status. These students tend to display more impulsivity, apathy, and emotional regulation is more difficult. This project will provide opportunities for students to learn and practice calming techniques and T.A.P.S. Teachers will have a decrease in time spent redirecting, managing student behavior, and discipline, and more time to spend on instruction. 

Major Objectives:
Students will be able to write, draw, or demonstrate at least 2 attention-focusing techniques. Students will be able to identify at lease 2 benefits of using attention-focusing techniques. Students will be able to name at least 2 Calming Caddy tools that can help focus their attention on learning.

Teaching Methods:
During the first month of school, I will hold Attention Academy with the students. During these "academies," a variety of attention-focusing and calming techniques will be taught to students via a Google Slides visual presentation. This presentation will include the rationale behind using these techniques and examples of the techniques. The T.A.P.S. (Total and Perfect Silence) process from BIST will be taught. There will be class discussion about how thoughts, behaviors, and feelings can get in the way of learning. Students will have opportunities to see the techniques modeled followed by students simulation. There will be opportunities for ongoing practice and reteaching as necessary. The Calming Caddy will be shown and explained to students. Each item in the caddy will be shown to the students and its use will be explained and demonstrated if necessary. Through class discussion, we will talk about reasons to use the caddy tools and the procedures for doing so. Students will be asked to write or draw some of the techniques and benefits. The Academy will be intensive at the beginning of the school year and then reviewed and practiced throughout the year. Some studies with youth find improvements in cognitive functioning when taught strategies for attention and focus. In addition, studies find improvements in emotion regulation, behavior in school, empathy and perspective-taking and social skills. Finally, youth have shown benefits in terms of test anxiety, stress, post-traumatic symptoms, and depression when given skills to help them focus their attention. 

Grade Level Impacted:
Attention-focusing techniques will be taught to all students in grades Kindergarten through 4th grade. This will impact approximately 250 students. Once the Caddy materials are purchased, they can be used year after year because they are not consumables. This project can be easily used at all elementary grade levels and schools and could be modified for middle and high school students with minimal time or cost. 

Additional Materials:
In order to implement this project, I will need a few calming/social-emotional learning curriculum or resource books. These will give me some additional ideas and the foundation to get started. I will also need supplies for each classroom to have a Calming Caddy. This will include a plastic basket (caddy), stress balls, stuffed animal, sand timer, stretching bands and other "fidgets." I would also like to supply each classroom with stability balls and exercise bands for student chair legs. These will allow students who need physical movement during instruction with the tools to get it. I will need to make copies of some handouts/worksheets for student application and evaluation. I will need to copy and laminate posters and technique cards for each classroom for reminders on the Calming Caddy strategies. 

Project Evaluation:
Students will be given a variety of opportunities to demonstrate the techniques taught. They will also be given an assessment where they will demonstrate their understanding by writing or drawing about students will be able to write, draw, or demonstrate attention-focusing techniques, benefits of using attention-focusing techniques, and Calming Caddy tools that can help focus their attention on learning. Students will be expected to write, draw, or demonstrate at least 2 attention-focusing techniques, and name at least 2 Calming Caddy tools that can help focus their attention on learning. The techniques and strategies will be reviewed and practiced until all students can do so. Small group or individual instruction will also occur if necessary.