Finding the Calm in a New School Year

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Next week marks the beginning of a new school year for our students, families, and staff at UICS. With the pivot to an adjusted curriculum that will provide quality early education options for both virtual and hybrid in-classroom/at-home learning, as well as the continued safety measures for the health of our families, our dedicated teaching staff has worked diligently to prepare for the return of UICS students. Heading into a semester largely full of unknowns, the accredited educators at our three centers across the Kansas City area recognize that the social-emotional health and development of our little learners will be an equal priority to the physical growth and momentum towards educational goals and future successes. 

At the foundation of UICS’ arts-infused curriculum is our commitment to the integration of Conscious Discipline in every learning environment and opportunity. Conscious Discipline is a comprehensive classroom management style, and, most importantly, a social-emotional curriculum. It is based on ongoing brain research, child development data, and developmentally age-appropriate practices. Conscious Discipline is specifically designed to aim at first making adjustments in the lives of educators and all adults in the lives of children. In turn, teachers are able to impact the lives of the children in their classrooms and work with them to develop healthy attachment in relationships, cultivate a sense of autonomy and choice in everyday interaction, and navigate the world equipped with emotionally intelligent problem solving skills. 

Ms. Daniell’e, Lead Teacher in the pre-K Designers Room at UICS-Metro Center, shared a few tools and exercises that will be used throughout the year to promote the importance of this growth in her students. “We’re making the conscious decision to educate a generation of children that can identify and work through their emotions. Each classroom has a ‘safe space’ (pictured above), usually a comfortable, tucked away area of the room where children who might need some time away from the stimulus can interact with different materials designed to help them regulate”. There, they can practice identifying their feelings, engaging in soft touch and various breathing techniques. “I take the time to communicate with the children the different breathing techniques that will help them to calm down by bring oxygen to their brain which is allows them to relax and refocus. We work on ‘pinwheel breathing’, a great exercise that shows the kids how to calm themselves and identify difficult feelings that might be getting in the way of their learning. Students learn to inhale deeply through a soft, scented flower attached to a pinwheel stem. As they exhale, seeing the pinwheel spin helps them to slow down and find their calm”, Daniell’e says. 

Sensory experiences in the classroom are vital for early childhood development. Our UICS teachers go the extra mile daily in creating opportunities that enhance brain development as well as fosters students’ ability to regulate their emotions and behavior, which will be essential to their success in the new year.