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Lincoln expands social/emotional learning; teaches inclusiveness, regulating emotions

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Lincoln Elementary School students and staff gathered for a drone photo to begin Start with Hello week. (Provided photo)

Lincoln Elementary School is expanding students' social/emotional learning with their participation in Start with Hello and a new social/emotional 30-minute class period.

"I feel (social/emotional learning) is a process through which children learn to manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals," said Principal Tammy Peterson. "They learn to feel and show empathy toward others. In addition, I feel they learn to establish and maintain positive relationships and make good and healthy decisions. It definitely has a spiral effect to help them prepare for their educational day and the social part of their day."

The school is teaching inclusiveness during the block as part of the social learning.

For the first time this year, the school will also be participating in the Start With Hello Kickoff Week.

Start with Hello is a program started by Sandy Hook Promise that aims to help create a culture of inclusion in schools by encouraging students to reach out to one another, particularly those who are socially isolated.

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"There's a lot of things on Facebook with schools doing Start With Hello after Sandy Hook and how they want to try and prevent something as tragic as Sandy Hook from happening again, knowing where that came from and how it came from some social isolation," school counselor Amber Fridley said.

Monday, they started the week by posing for an aerial photo. Tuesday, students will wear name tags and say "Hello" to peers they may not usually speak to, using the peer's name.

Wednesday, students will wear yellow for positivity. Thursday, students will wear orange and enjoy clementines placed on their desks. Friday, they will place sticky notes with kind words on a designated bulletin board.

Starting this week and carrying on into the school year, teachers will teach their students different ways to say "Hello."

"Each morning, during our morning announcements, (we will) teach another way to say "Hello" in another language and promoting that and sharing that throughout the school during the day," said Fridley.

On both playground, the school has Buddy Benches.

"When a student goes to sit on that bench, they feel like they either don't know what they should do or they can't find anybody to play with, and then the kids that are playing watch for kids who go to sit on that bench. When they see somebody sitting on that bench, they would go and invite them to play or join in their activity," Fridley said.

As part of their emotional learning, students are learning how to recognize and regulate their emotions. Starting this year, Lincoln students will spend the first half hour of their school day in one of three social/emotional programs.

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Each day, a different grade level does Morning Mindfulness — formally called Yoga Calm — with para-educator Jenny Thompson, to help students regulate their emotions.

"We wanted to add more breathing and social/emotional activities, so we renamed it Morning Mindfulness to bring in a little bit more relaxation-type activities, breathing awareness," Thompson said.

She said they are still using part of the Yoga Calm program, but that they don't do the yoga poses much anymore.

When it's not their turn to do Morning Mindfulness, the kids do their social/emotional learning in the classroom during the block. One of the programs the teachers use during that time is Mind Up.

"Mind Up actually teaches the kids about their brain, and how we have different parts of our brain that have different purposes, and sometimes when we start to get stressed out and our emotions start to change, we tend not to think with the thinking parts of our brain, but more of like a reptilian part of the brain or the medulla," said Fridley.

The school also uses the Top 20 program, which provides social/emotional training and teaches students skills such as reducing negative thinking, resolving conflict and learning from mistakes.

Students also learn the Zones of Regulation for the block.

"Zones of Regulation is really helping our students identify where their emotions are at, at that present moment and helping them get to the learning zone, which is the green zone. There is not a zone that is a bad zone, but it just helps us get in the right mindset ... a growth mindset that we're ready to learn," Peterson said.

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Students in blue zone may have low levels of alertness and be tired or sad. Students in the yellow zone may be hyper or nervous. Students in the red zone may be angry or terrified. The ideal state of awareness is green and includes happy and calm emotions.

Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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