Settled or Stirred: Meditating Snow Globe Activity

SnowGlobe 2“See this snow globe filled with sand and water?” says our lead facilitator Mayme Donsker as she introduces her class to some of the basic principles of mindfulness practice. “When you shake the globe, the sand and water get stirred up, making the water cloudy. When the globe is left undisturbed, the sand settles and the water becomes clear again. If you think about it, our mind is like the sand and water; when we get caught up in our thoughts and emotions, it can be difficult to see clearly, which impacts our perceptions and decision making. Practicing mindfulness can help us to become aware of this process, create some space between our thoughts, emotions, and reactions, and allow ourselves the opportunity to settle.”

It has been over a decade since we first introduced the snow globe to the SB&T curriculum. When we brought a single snow globe into the classroom, there was always a line of students after class who wanted to hold it, shake it, and watch the water slowly become clear again. So we decided to create a way for each student to make their own unique snow globe to take home to support their mindfulness practice.

In this fun DIY project students begin by drawing themselves sitting and meditating. The self portrait is then laminated and affixed to the lid of a mason jar, which can be filled with water and brightly colored sand. The jar is then placed upside down using the lid as the base so students can see the image of themselves sitting upright inside. Shaking the jar turns the water opaque, a metaphor for a stirred up mind. When set down, the water slowly clears as the colored sand settles to the bottom.

Students can see themselves as the meditator in the jar, capable of allowing their mind to settle as the water becomes crystal clear.

 

The kids we work with absolutely love the project; it’s a hit in the classroom. In class, students use the snowglobe as a reminder of how and when to practice mindfulness. When they’re doing the project in a school day, we break it down into steps and span it out over the course of a few classes. They can’t wait to see the finished product and take it home to share with their parents, siblings, and friends, where they get to put the concept of mindfulness into their own words.

For step-by-step instructions including photos and templates for the Meditating Snow Globe activity, download the free “Stop, Breathe & Think: Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom” PDF HERE.

Please leave a comment on Facebook or Twitter and tell us how it goes!

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude ImageFrom rushing out of the house in the morning, to the last bell, it’s easy to get caught up in the ever-changing flow of victories and defeats that comprise a school day. For teachers and students alike, it can feel as if life is lived from one bell/assignment/quiz/social interaction to the next. We’re usually not in the habit of just appreciating things, moment to moment. It can be hard to remember to stop and note whatever we feel positively about, so, with this tool, we deliberately build in some time in the school day to focus on gratitude.

When we find something to be grateful for, everything shifts. It can turn our attitude around from feeling overwhelmed or isolated, to feeling connected and supported.

We have a section on gratitude in the free Stop, Breathe & Think: Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom PDF that includes a gratitude meditation, group discussion questions, and journal prompts. Below we’ll walk through how we teach the gratitude lesson in our Tools for Peace classrooms.

After checking in with the Check-In Worksheet, we jump into a group discussion or Circle Chart to create a working definition of gratitude. Then we practice the gratitude meditation, either by reading the script, or playing the recording from the Stop, Breathe & Think app. The meditation is great because it helps everyone to slow down, and connect, in whatever way they can, to their own genuine feelings of appreciation and thankfulness.

After the meditation, we set aside a few minutes for a short check-in and share. If the group is open and sharing a lot, we’ll give a little more time for discussion before moving into the gratitude journal. The students love the journal because the prompts are very specific, starting with something simple like listing the everyday material things we are grateful for, why they are important, and how they make us feel, and then going deeper into thinking about our own unique qualities, talents, and skills.

The Gratitude Journal continues with writing about the people in our lives. We describe why we are grateful for them, how we feel when we think of them, and even find something we are grateful for in a person that we find difficult to be around. Then we share at least one thing from our journals.

Through sharing what we’re grateful for in the classroom setting, students, as well as teachers, find commonalities with one another, which can promote compassion, calmness, and camaraderie, a great environment for learning.

 

The benefits of gratitude are well documented. According to this Washington Post article on teaching kids gratitude, “‘We know that grateful kids are happier [and] more satisfied with their lives,” says Jeffrey Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University. “They report better relationships with friends and family, higher GPAs, less materialism, less envy and less depression, along with a desire to connect to their community and to want to give back…”  

Froh’s studies found that kids who kept a Gratitude Journal every day for two weeks were more appreciative than those who didn’t, as well as more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives.

If you are using the Check-In Worksheet in your class, you can add any number of the Gratitude Journal prompts to your mindfulness routine. In most classes we focus on a single prompt each week, giving students time to dig deep into each subject.

If you are interested in adding the Gratitude Journal, we have created a guide for you and we’d love to hear how it goes in your classroom. Download the free “Stop, Breathe & Think: Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom” PDF HERE.

Please leave a comment on Facebook or Twitter and tell us how it goes!

 

Game-Changer in the Classroom: Check-In Worksheet

When students and teachers walk into the classroom, backpacks and textbooks aren’t the only baggage they bring with them. Everyone enters the room in a different mental, emotional, and physical state, which often affects their readiness to learn. In our Tools for Peace classes and clubs, the Check-In Worksheets have been a real game-changer. It’s the first thing we do together after welcoming each student into the classroom.

Mirroring the Check-In of the Stop Breathe & Think App, students answer the question “How are you?” on the worksheets, guiding them to slow down and turn their attention inward to reflect on what they are experiencing mentally, physically and emotionally in that moment.

Last week we asked our lead facilitator Mayme Donsker about her experiences using the Check-In Worksheet with her students. She found that “in the past, if someone was disengaged or even acting out, it could take me an entire class period to figure out what was going on and come up with a strategy to work with it. Checking in and sharing at the beginning of class allows me to immediately hear directly from the students how they are doing, and with that information I can adjust my teaching style or lesson plan to meet them where they are.”

Students keep track of their mental, physical, and emotional state, like a journal, and as the semester goes on it opens up discussions about how those things are constantly changing and moving.  Mayme found this process had a positive impact on her class:

“We hear each other’s struggles and joys, and that sense of common humanity naturally creates a supportive classroom culture and a shared vocabulary for talking through challenges.”

 

We’ve also found that in the middle of a dense lesson, the Check-In Worksheet can be used to overcome mental blocks like “I’m just bad at this” or “I’m not a math person.” Guiding students to identify frustration or confusion as a passing feeling instead of shutting down, can help relieve pressure and provide a few moments to allow the mind to settle and refresh before looking for another strategy to approach the issue. Students identify less with the obstacles and more with being curious, open, and present.

Want to try the Check-In Worksheet with your students? Download the free “Stop, Breathe & Think: Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom” PDF HERE.

Please leave a comment on Facebook or Twitter and tell us how it goes!

Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom

Ready to bring mindfulness activities to your classroom? We often hear from teachers and students about how they are impacted by stress inside and outside of the classroom. We’ve compiled a selection of exercises from the Stop, Breathe & Think curriculum to give both teachers and students tools to deal with stress in a healthy and productive way. These exercises can be easily integrated into any academic setting.

This free packet features an introduction to mindfulness and the science behind how it works, scripts for foundational mindfulness exercises with follow up questions for group discussion, gratitude journal prompts, a kindness group activity, instructions for creating a “Settled or Stirred Meditating Snow Globe”, as well as best practices and helpful tips.

      CONTENTS:

  • Quick Stop, Breathe & Think Practice
  • Checking In
  • Check-in Worksheets
  • Mindful Breathing
  • Body Scan
  • Engaging Your Senses
  • Gratitude
  • Gratitude Journal
  • Kindness
  • Kindness Card Activity
  • Settled Or Stirred Meditating Snow Globe
  • Snow Globe Meditator Template

Available for download HERE.

Audio recordings of many of the scripted exercises provided in the PDF can be accessed via the Stop, Breathe & Think App, available for free at http://stopbreathethink.org on the web and through iOS and Android.

Please tell us how it goes in your classroom!

 

SAMPLE PAGES:

Celebrate With Us!

January was a month of growth and gratitude. We’re happy to share that the Tools for Peace social media pages have successfully relaunched. The new pages are dedicated to sharing our work in schools, the annual Summer Teen Camp, and the Stop, Breathe & Think Online Course. We’ll periodically share free curriculum activities developed by our facilitators, and post about the latest breakthroughs and research for mindfulness in education. We continue to work closely with Stop, Breathe, & Think to develop curriculum content for our in-service programs and work in the community.

Live Gratitude MeditationLIVE Event Post Image

To celebrate the upcoming year of growth and change, we’ve partnered with Stop, Breathe & Think for a LIVE Gratitude meditation and Q&A on Tuesday, February 16th at 12 PM PST.

Visit Facebook for more details about how to participate in the meditation. A Q&A on Twitter will immediately follow. You can tweet your questions about mindfulness and meditation to @ToolsForPeace using the hashtag #MeditateWithUs.

We’re looking forward to a great year and are so grateful to have you with us. Thank you for your support!

With gratitude,
The Tools for Peace Team

P.S. If you haven’t already, you can follow our new social media pages all at once HERE.

New plans for Stop, Breathe & Think

Dear TFP supporters,

In January 2014, a small but dedicated team at Tools for Peace launched the Stop, Breathe & Think app to help as many people as possible become more mindful and compassionate. Today, over 1 million people have downloaded SB&T!  Sincere thanks to all of you who have made this possible; we have touched more lives than we could have ever imagined, and even won the Webby People’s Voice Award this year! We are so thankful for your support and loyalty.

We know there is a lot more we can do to continue to develop the app and reach more people. However, being a not-for-profit limits our ability to improve the app. With some help, we can meet the needs of our program participants and users more effectively.

So we have decided to make Stop, Breathe & Think its own company, as a public benefit corporation. Tools for Peace will continue as a separate non-profit organization, providing the same programs that you’ve supported throughout the years.  

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This is a big change for us, and we are really excited that it will allow us to better serve our stakeholders. But while we look forward to this change and the additional capabilities it will give us, we want you to know that our fundamental values will not change:

  • Stop, Breathe & Think will continue supporting Tools For Peace. 10% of Stop, Breathe & Think’s net sales will go to the non-profit to further its mission and support its programs, such as the TFP Summer Teen Camp. As our business grows, so will the impact and the sustainability of TFP’s mission. The ongoing partnership between Stop, Breathe & Think and Tools for Peace will create new opportunities to make the world a more compassionate place and ensure that Tools for Peace can flourish for years to come.
  • The free content and features that exist today will remain free. We will be developing more premium content and features to fund our development, but what is free today will stay free in the future. Always.
  • Finally, we want you to know that we are focused on making Stop, Breathe & Think the best it can be to help our users achieve greater mindfulness and compassion every day. As such, I will continue developing the app and the content as Stop, Breathe & Think’s co-founder and president, and I am thrilled to now have a partner to help me do that even better, CEO Julie Campistron.

Together, we are building a team dedicated to bringing you calm, clarity and kindness every day. Thank you for your continued support of Tools for Peace as we begin this new endeavor.

Please email us with any feedback at: info@toolsforpeace.org.

Jamie Price
Executive Director

TFP 2015 Summer Teen Camp Wrapup

Students at King Middle School work in the community garden. The 10th annual Tools for Peace Summer Teen Camp was a great success! Our campers had a wonderful time learning about mindfulness, meditation, compassion, and kindness while having fun too!

We’re grateful to all the people and organizations that donated time, and resources to this year’s camp.  Because of your generosity, we were able to have an exceptional staff and provide healthful meals and activities, such as yoga, horseback riding, and arts and crafts.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to:

  • The Sean O’Shea Foundation for donating yoga mats that campers were able to take home from camp.
  • The Taylor Family Foundation for providing In Harmony Music Therapy Services for our campers.
  • Polar Bottle who donated water bottles for campers and staff.
  • Everyone who donated to our Be Kind to the Power of 3 fundraising campaign.

You can watch the campers’ original song, “The Tools We Seek” by subscribing to our YouTube page at Youtube.com/ToolsForPeace, and you can see photos from camp by looking at the gallery below or by following us on our Facebook page.

Campers speak!

My favorite part was knowing that everyone was going to treat me kindly. Everyone was very supportive and nice. -Stephanie, Grade 8

The most important thing I learned was to always have an open mind and rejoice with others. This has been very important to me because I realize that those tools lead to lasting happiness. -Araceli, Grade 11

Now I know how to handle my stress. I know myself a little more now, and I feel great. -Charlotte, Grade 7

How you react really makes a difference. You have the ability to help a situation turn out calmer and more positive. -Ethan, Grade 10

I put myself in the other person’s shoes so that I can see their point of view and understand where they’re coming from. -Siron, Grade 11

The most important thing I’ve learned is to think about a problem and not just react to it in a negative way. -Stacy, Grade 8

Whenever I get worked up with my emotions, I’ll stop, breathe and think. -Mercy, Grade 9

Tools for Peace at School

Students at King Middle School work in the community garden.We have lots of news about our Stop, Breathe & Think school programs. This year, we’ve added a third campus at Thomas Starr King Middle School as part of our partnership with LACER Afterschool programs.  Our facilitator, Mayme, is working with their award-winning drill team, leading 40 girls in a weekly mindfulness practice.  LACER also received a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation to expand the Tools for Peace community garden at Bancroft Middle School, which is flourishing.  At Irving Middle School, we’re leading our Tools for Peace club, as well as engaging all 75 LACER students at the beginning of Wednesday afterschool sessions in a mindfulness practice.

Also this year, our most active Tools for Peace LACER Afterschool students from all three campuses have come together for our Agents of Change club.  The students, who earned their place in AofC through high attendance and participation, work together for compassion-in-action community projects, which include visiting with seniors at Sunset Hall and hosting a monthly supper at the Ronald McDonald House in Pasadena.

We’re also launching a pilot in-school SB&T program at Irving Middle School where we’ll study the effects of our curriculum with Dr. Elizabeth Davis at University of California, Riverside.  This yearlong study will measure the outcome of Stop, Breathe & Think on 2 classrooms.  We’re excited to see the results!

Take a look below at some pictures from this year’s programs, and visit our YouTube channel to view our 2015 videos.  We’re inspired by the continuing success of our partnership with LACER and look forward to the future!

Stop, Breathe & Think Reaches 1 Million!

You are flying!
When we launched the Stop, Breathe & Think app in January 2014, we never imagined that we’d reach so many people in such a short period of time. Thanks to your enthusiasm and the hard work of our SB&T team, the app has been downloaded over 1 million times. For a small non-profit organization, that’s incredible! We’re so grateful for your support.

In the coming months, we have some new things in store for the Stop, Breathe & Think app that we’re excited to share with you. Keep an eye out!

What a psychologist says about Stop, Breathe & Think

Stop, Breathe & Think is a simple tool to guide people of all ages through meditations for mindfulness and compassion, and if I’m being honest, it’s AWESOME!  The app tailors the meditations to YOUR experience.  That’s right, the emotions that you just clicked?  The physical check in you just did?  That is factored into what meditations are presented to you!  I think this helps us come to better understand what we need in given moments, which is always a positive.  The meditations are also relatively short and simple in duration, ranging from a few minutes to longer time periods of 15 to 20 minutes, if desired.  And these meditations are kid friendly, meaning they are awesome to do around bed time or as a family after a stressful day.

-Dr. Allison Niebes-Davis, Licensed Clinical Psychologist | DrAllisonAnswers.com

TFP Fundraiser with Pema Chödrön and k.d. lang

Pema Chodron and k.d. lang
This past June, multimedia publisher Sounds True hosted a successful fundraiser benefiting The Pema Chödrön Foundation and Tools for Peace at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles.

The event featured an inspiring discussion with renowned Western meditation teacher and author Pema Chödrön and Grammy®-winning singer k.d.lang about the positive effects of meditation on creativity. The live-streamed event culminated with a moving musical performance by Tools for Peace board member lang.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to Sounds True founder Tami Simon for including us in this once-in-a-lifetime event.

You can view pictures from the event below! (All photos by Christine Alicino.)

 

Tools for Peace fundraiser with Pema Chödrön

Sounds True founder Tami Simon talks with Pema Chödrön.

k.d. lang and Pema Chödrön

k.d. lang and Pema Chödrön at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Pema Chödrön and k.d. lang share a laugh.

Pema Chödrön and k.d. lang share a laugh.

k.d. lang performs

k.d. lang performs at the Sounds True fundraising event.

k.d. lang performs

k.d. lang sings at the Sounds True fundraising event

Pema Chödrön and k.d. lang

Pema Chödrön and k.d. lang at the Sounds True fundraiser