Compassionate Schools Project | News
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On a Friday in early December, representatives from several organizations whose missions include improving the lives of
local citizens through the promotion of wellness, quality public education, innovative medical research, and ample social services, visited a Kindergarten class using the Compassionate Schools Project (CSP) Curriculum. The visitors observed
a lesson from a unit on student self management. This lesson, “Many Feelings,” uses the book, My Many Colored Days,
by Dr. Seuss to explore the way that emotions affect us and the ways that we can settle our minds and calm our bodies after experiencing strong emotions. mayor csp

Alexis Harris, Ph.D., led the tour. This is what she observed:
When we arrived, students were engaged in a movement activity in which they did movements for each of the emotions in the book. In between each, they came back to a calm, settled Mountain Pose. One of the sections in the book mentions a “mixed up” day and Ms. Clem used the “mind jar” with swirling glitter to show how a mixed up day can feel when many emotions are swirling in our minds. After the activity, they reflected on which emotion/movement was hardest to calm down from – and they skillfully noticed that after the excited/happy flamingo movement, it took a little longer to get settled. Students then revisited the “mixed up” day. They recalled that the jar represented the mind, and the glitter inside represented the thoughts and feelings that can be swirling around in our minds, suggesting “feelings,” “emotions,” “words,” “pictures,” and even “music” could be swirling in their minds and making them feel unsettled. Students then identified what uncomfortable emotions might cause the experience of a “mixed-up” day or “swirling” thoughts and feelings in their minds. They displayed impressive emotional vocabulary and insight for Kindergartners, suggesting “embarrassment,” “feeling mean,” “sadness,” “anger” and “having to be quiet.”  They suggested that a good way to calm/settle these swirling thoughts/feelings was to find their “anchor points” (hands on heart and belly to connect with the breath) and take three calming breaths. They recalled that an anchor keeps a boat calm and stable and that their breath can do the same for them.

These Kindergartners showed us sophisticated understanding of emotions, thoughts, and the application of this knowledge for self-management. Ms. Clem shared with us that after we left the room, she told her students, “Wow, I was experiencing  strong emotion in class today. Can you guess what it was?” Then several of the students called out together, “Nervous!” From 5 year olds, this is an amazing level of emotion recognition and perspective taking, and they haven’t even reached the unit on social awareness (empathy & perspective taking)! This is a great testament to the teaching and learning going on in the CSP classes. Of course, not every class is like this every day, but we are seeing this kind of work on a more consistent basis in our schools!

“In schools in New York City and in pockets around the country, the use of inward-looking practices like mindfulness and meditation is starting to grow.” The New York Times interviewed Compassionate School Project Leaders Tish Jennings, Ph.D. and Mark Greenberg, Ph.D. in a story about the Compassionate Schools Project and the adoption of classroom practices in the U.S. aimed at improving academic performance and student behavior and more.

Read the full story, “Under Stress, Students in New York Schools Find Calm in Meditation.”

“Miss Clem, I put my hand on my belly and calmed myself with the breathing you taught me when I was upset earlier,” said one of elementary school teacher Meghann Clem’s students. She was talking about the new Mindfulness curriculum they are learning. Listen to Clem and Professors Tolan and Jennings speak about the study and implementation of the Compassionate Schools Project.

Listen to “U.Va. Program Tests More ‘Compassionate Schools.'”

mayor and kidsLouisville Kentucky’s Mayor Greg Fischer was joined by area school children and project partners at a press conference to kick off the Compassionate Schools Project. The curriculum is being piloted at three Jefferson County Public Schools: Jacob, Slaughter, and Cane Run Elementary Schools. The event was held at the start of the Louisville school year on August 13, 2015.

View the Press Conference Video.

WLKY featured CSP in a story citing that “Louisville was chosen over other cities considered by researchers because of the citywide commitment to compassion and the push for city and school leadership.” Three JCPS schools: Jacob, Cane Run, and Slaughter elementary schools, will offer the pilot project in the 2015-2016 school year.

Read the full story, “Louisville, JCPS Bring Compassion to Schools.”

As chief judge of Jefferson County Family Court, Paula Sherlock sees first hand how trauma affects children. In her OP-ED to The Courier-Journal, Sherlock expressed her appreciation for the Compassionate Schools Project curriculum in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). “Certainly, your family court judges in Jefferson County appreciate the steps that JCPS is taking to teach children to be resilient, to be compassionate and to learn to control their emotions as they navigate through the difficult waters of their childhood,” Sherlock said.

Read the full article, “Compassion in Schools Great Step to Help Kids.”

With teacher hiring complete and training underway for the first year of the Compassionate Schools Project, Louisville’s paper of record, the Courier-Journal, explored what’s in store. Education Reporter Allison Ross reported on the introductory year of the project, a limited, three-school implementation for 2015-16. The article includes quotes from many CSP leaders, including Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens, JCPS Director of Curriculum Management Suzanne Wright, Principal Investigator Dr. Patrick Tolan, CSP chair Owsley Brown III, Project Director Dr. Alexis Harris, and teacher Meghann Clem.

Read full article, “JCPS Project to Teach Compassion Classes.”

UVA Today introduced the Compassionate Schools Project to the University community in a story detailing its goals and listing its many partners.

“Our aim is to test – using the best scientific methods – a health education curriculum that is up to date on skills children need for the coming world,” Patrick Tolan said. “and that can have important impact on school engagement and achievement, mental and physical health, and long-term well-being.” Tolan is lead researcher and professor and director of Youth-Nex.

Read the whole story, “U.Va. Partners with Louisville Schools to Study Health and Wellness Curriculum.”

The Compassionate Schools Project team was honored to host Jefferson County Public Schools elementary school principals at a reception at the home of Christy Brown, one of the project’s tremendous supporters yesterday evening. We enjoyed the opportunity to express our appreciation and get to know our wonderful new colleagues a little better as we shared information about our plans to introduce a world-class health and wellness curriculum being developed by the University of Virginia in Jefferson County and to study the curriculum’s effectiveness.

During the brief speaking program, Mayor Greg Fischer discussed his role in helping to make the project a reality. Having made compassion central to his governing mission and to Louisville’s identity, he asked Owsley Brown III to champion entrepreneurial initiatives that could boost the city’s and its citizens’ capacity for caring and wellness. Owsley learned that a team of educators and scientists at his alma mater, the University of Virginia, were looking for a school district to implement and study a groundbreaking curriculum based on the latest neuroscience and education research. He made the introductions between U.Va. and JCPS and it was an instant match.

JCPS Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donna Hargens explained why. Already an innovator in the use of health and physical education hours, JCPS saw in the Compassionate Schools Project a curriculum that: 1) brought practical living time to a new level of excellence; 2) aligned perfectly with the district’s strategic plan and state standards; and 3) brought new resources into the district through philanthropic funding.

Principal investigator Dr. Patrick Tolan described the incredibly warm welcome the University of Virginia team has received, especially for the U.Va. professor deployed in Louisville, Alexis Harris. Curriculum expert and author of Mindfulness for Teachers, Dr. Tish Jennings, joined Patrick to offer more detail about the project and to thank the principals for their extraordinary leadership.