A Window Into Social Emotional Learning on the Hill

Social Emotional Learning has become a big part of the day for Preschool and Lower School students. Jason Yaffe, Director of Academics, takes a look into the program in this week’s blog.

Imagine a school day, with all of its typical excitement and exhilaration, starting with a centering activity to ready students for their upcoming adventures. Instead of jumping into school work, imagine slowing down in the morning to prepare for the day to come. That’s what is taking place in the Greenhill Preschool and Lower School as teachers and students engage in intentional core practices, or centering activities, to help their brains think more clearly. With the recent adoption of the MindUP curriculum for our youngest students, the goal is to make Greenhill an even more harmonious center of learning.

Evidence of core practices can be found in multiple areas on campus, from classrooms to hallways, during designated class time and in transitions from one area of study to another. I recently observed it unfold at the weekly Lower School assembly. After some singing, announcements, and acknowledgement of the School’s core principles in action, a fourth grade student leader sounded a small chime and over three hundred students and adults in the lobby settled in. All were given directions for a simple breathing exercise.

Take calm, slow breaths…Keep your shoulders relaxed…If your mind tries to think about other things, bring your attention back to your breath…feel your stomach rising and falling…open your eyes slowly and take another slow, deep breath with your eyes open.

I engaged in that breathing exercise, but admit that I opened my eyes to take a peek at the students. All appeared to embrace the one to two minute exercise. Instead of rushing off to their first class of the day or starting the day on a hectic note, the students used the power of silence and breath to set a tone. Once the exercise ended, grade by grade moved quietly and intentionally to their first class of the day.

For our youngest students who are often bombarded with stimuli, I appreciated the calm that settled over them. This very core practice is occurring three times a day throughout the Preschool and Lower School and I have to think it’s eventually going to lead to greater self-awareness, self-management, and improved relationships. Not to mention much happier and healthier students and teachers.

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