District Home

Mindfulness center helps address student needs

posted: Wed, Jan 24th, 2018

Mindfulness center helps address student needs

Walking through the Mount Olive Middle School hallway amid the hustle and bustle between periods, you wouldn’t look twice; it appears to be just another classroom in a row of classrooms. Inside, though, is an oasis of calm and focus.

The overhead tube lighting has been turned off in favor of the softer illumination of table lamps and torchiers, with a salt crystal lamp casting an amber glow in one corner. Cushy beanbag chairs rest on the floor. A tank of fish murmurs in the background. Scent diffusers lightly sweeten the air with freshness.

This is the Mindfulness Learning Center, a new resource for students who are struggling academically or emotionally. After recommendations by staff members, students come here to receive personalized instruction or learn techniques to pay better attention in school. They may also be guided through the process of understanding how their bodies and minds react to stressors which can become obstacles for learning.

Staffed by a veteran educator and two guidance counselors who devote part of their day here, the Mindfulness Learning Center provides an added layer of support. It might be used to help a student who needs a tranquil environment just to take a test, for example, or a student with a behavioral issue who may benefit from learning to better control his or her emotions. It’s all about helping students free themselves from distractions and allowing them to better focus on what they’re in school for: learning.

“If a teacher sees a student trying their hardest and not thriving, or just having difficulty getting through the school day for emotional reasons, the teacher might recommend that they come down here,” said center teacher Erin Moriarty, who addresses the academic needs of kids. “The students who come here understand that the Mindfulness Center is not an escape room, it’s a coping room.”

From an adult perspective, the concept that kids have stress may seem a bit quizzical. In reality, children at this age level experience dramatic physical, emotional, social, and cognitive transformations which can compound academic struggles, problems at home (e.g. divorce, sick family member), and issues with peers. In the classroom, this translates to difficulties with attention, mood, and learning readiness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness at its simplest can be described as “focused in the moment.” In education, the term has been around for about 20 years and is used to describe concentration techniques, information, and self-assessment that can enhance productivity and cultivate a positive state of mind. Deep breathing exercises to modulate mood and developing an understanding of your own specific stress triggers are just some examples of how to work toward mindfulness.

The MOMS Mindfulness Learning Center team coordinates services for students by working with the counselors from all three grades, student assistance counselors, teachers, and school nurses.

“We’re really here just to be an advocate for children and what they need,” said Brittany LaRusso, who along with Vitina Krentz provides the center's counseling services. “Getting them to understand that there is someone in the school looking out for them and who they can turn to for help is so important.”

The creation of a mindfulness center at MOMS was the idea of school principal Susan Breton, a former guidance counselor and past director of the high school’s guidance department. A significant amount of research was conducted before it was planned and put into place, including a visit to a similar center at West Morris Regional High School.

Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
Questions or Feedback click here
Phone: 973.691.4006 Fax: 973.691.4029

Custom Website Design By JAM Graphics NJ