At first glance, it’s easy to see why any parent would choose Centner Academy in the heart of downtown Miami. The bright and inviting learning environments for children, healthy lunches and snacks, and, a dedicated team of educators are what makes them great. But, what sets them apart is their focus on social and emotional development for children. HiMama interviewed the Preschool Principal, Dina Scellato to find out how her school’s focus can be and should be incorporated into every learning environment for children.
Dina’s tips on incorporating mindfulness practically into the classroom:
- Create a “Zen Zone.” Different than a time-out area, this area is a place for children to come to to reflect on their emotions and practice different techniques to calm themselves and to become more aware of their feelings.
- Teach different calming techniques to children. Consider things like aromatherapy, breathing techniques, songs, books, and movement etc. By giving children these tools, they’ll be equipped with different techniques to identify their feelings.
- Mindfulness is infused every day. Mindfulness isn’t a “sometimes things” It’s an ongoing mindset that allows children (and educators!) to identify their feelings which in turn, will help children feel empowered to go about their day once they’re thinking clearly.
- Strengthen past mindfulness techniques. If an educator notices a concern, they can address and adjust this concern in their circle time to accommodate this child and perhaps other children who may be feeling this way.
- Consider the whole child. What children eat, how well they sleep, how well they are breathing and their stress levels are all important. Even the best mindfulness techniques can’t compensate for other aspects of the child’s development.
- Reinforce the message behind children taking time away. It’s important to reassure children that it’s ok to remove themselves from the group to go to a “Zen Zone” or to reflect on their feelings and emotions. This is healthy.
The impact of social-emotional and mindfulness component is something children need and is essential in education and essential now more than everDina Scellato
Dina mentions that parents and families notice a difference in the children at their center. The biggest differences at Centner Academy? How they treat bullying; conflict resolution happens organically, it happens proactively rather than reactively. When the children are exercising and are doing daily movement, eating well, are able to identify their own feelings in a positive way they’re not projecting their feelings on others, it minimizes distractions on others in the classroom.
Another point Dina mentions is the effects of COVID-19 at their center. Instead of focusing on the negative effects of COVID-19, which we all know there has been a lot, she suggests focusing on the positive: more time at home, more time on personal growth, more time with family, focus on the whole child and the social-emotional development of the child. To be able to have a child identify their feelings is such a positive component of their development.
These same principles apply to children and adults, by bringing your whole self to work with positive tools on managing emotions, will help the children manage their emotions. Dina mentions that the focus in schools should be on social-emotional development and while COVID-19 has brought this about a bit, there’s still more to be done. Schools that may not have embraced this philosophy and focus on children’s social and emotional development may start to embrace that more because of COVID-19.