Reeves Healthy Habits Class

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Reeves students learn power of meditation, self-care
Reeves healthy habits classReeves Middle School has a creative, new approach this year to provide extra support for students -- the Healthy Habits class.

Reeves teachers Sarah Yardley and Shawn McGuire partnered together, with input from other Reeves staff, to design and teach the class. The target population is students in grades 6-8 who could benefit from extra support. Healthy Habits expands upon previous intervention programs at Reeves, and students receive elective credit for the class.

Reeves Principal Aaron Davis said previous intervention programs at the school were so successful that school leaders decided to expand the program this year. “It’s going excellent so far. We’re tracking students via surveys and also their work completion and their participation in class. Students are finding that they’re being successful in school not only academically but also in their social interactions with peers.”

Each week Healthy Habits students participate in Meditation Monday and Breathwork Wednesday. They also discuss social skills, practice effective study habits and receive one-on-one academic support. Yardley and McGuire collaborate with other Reeves teachers to incorporate elements from other classes when appropriate.

“Overall, it is a safe and relaxing place for students to decompress, focus and get organized so they can stay on track,” Yardley said.

On a recent Monday morning, students walked into a peaceful classroom with ambient lighting and soft music. After the bell, students quickly settled down. First, they checked in with their teachers. Then, they listened to a guided meditation on YouTube from the Headspace application and learned what is going on in their brains and bodies when they experience pain. As the meditation went on, the students became more serene. Some laid their heads on their desks and their breathing grew deep and steady.

After the 20-minute meditation was over, the class shared their thoughts. One student mentioned feeling so relaxed, it was almost as if he was asleep. Another student shared that she had been practicing meditation at home. All of the students reported positively about their experiences.

Meditation is calming and “a skill they can carry into their lives outside of school,” Yardley said. “Many of the kids wanted guided meditations they can do at home, so I created a folder in Schoology where they can access various meditation and breathwork videos. I do find that the class is way more relaxed after meditation which means they are able to focus better.”

The breathwork sessions provide similar results to meditation, Yardley said. On a recent day, students practiced alternate nostril breathing. “It was the students’ favorite session so far,” Yardley said. “Breathwork instantly balances the brain and brings an overwhelming feeling of calm. Students are expressing that they feel safe and relaxed in Healthy Habits class. Most of them are enjoying the class and like to have the extra time to get centered, organized and complete assignments. It's a nice shift from the hustle and shuffle of the day.”

In addition to learning self-care and study habits, students in the Healthy Habits class find in their teachers an adult who is their advocate.

“It is important to me and Shawn that we create a safe environment where students can come and talk about what they are going through,” Yardley said. "We've had some students show so much improvement that we discussed the option to leave the class and choose a different elective of their choice. So far, these students have expressed that they want to stay because they enjoy the class so much.”