• July 18, 2019

Mindfulness makes headway in the Permian Basin - Odessa American: ECISD

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Mindfulness makes headway in the Permian Basin

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Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2019 9:30 am

Whether it’s at school or in business, mindfulness has found a place in the Permian Basin.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary says mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

Two elementary schools, Austin Montessori Magnet and Goliad Elementary, are trying the technique with students after visiting Travis Elementary School in Midland, along with other Ector County Independent School District officials and Student Health Advisory Council members.

“… You should have seen how quiet and peaceful it was just walking into the school,” Austin Montessori PE teacher Olga Salazar said. “It was just a different atmosphere than any of our schools here. We’re a Montessori school, so peace is a big thing. The kids do a really good job of being nice to each other, but they’re pretty loud …”

Salazar said mindfulness was offered at Travis at various times of day and the students were “just so different; so quiet; so peaceful; ready to go.”

“They taught us about it with the mindful stretching. They told us to try a couple of our classes. We had two schools here, Goliad and Austin, (where) the coaches decided they were going to give it a try,” she said.

Salazar’s PE classes mix grade levels because it’s a Montessori campus, so she has prekindergarten 3 and 4-year-olds and kindergarten together; first, second and third grade; and fourth and fifth grade. Combined, she has 80 to 120 students per class.

She added that she’s noticed that mindfulness works best after the students have a chance to let off some steam.

“PE is where they have fun and go and play and we try to do different games, but to try to get them to calm down and relax, to leave and transition is hard, so with the mindful stretching I’ve noticed that it’s gotten a lot better,” Salazar said.

Soft music plays and the students are instructed to quiet down and they’re asked about positive things happening in their lives. The whole process takes about five or 10 minutes and includes stretching.

“I feel peaceful and I feel quiet,” 9-year-old third-grader Lana Soatosch said.

“The music is very soft and it’s very calming. It puts me in a good place,” said 9-year-old third-grader Leon Ramirez.

Salazar said she has tried mindful stretching herself.

“… It kind of gives you time to relax and think about things that you have on your mind. … You never know how their mornings are. If they wake up and it’s just a stressful morning, or even for us it could be a stressful morning, a car accident or something that you weren’t expecting to happen. But when you come to school, or go to work and think of something positive, it can really change your day,” Salazar said.

Nancy S. Robinson, an assistant director at the student counseling center at Texas Tech University and a licensed psychologist, said mindfulness helps people manage anxiety, depressive thoughts and stress in general.

Robinson said it also allows students to focus more on their class work, relationships with other people and helps with their functioning in general.

“Mindfulness can be integrated into your daily routine. One way of doing it is to sprinkle it in to how you function throughout the day, very much like relaxation breathing,” she said.

That can mean taking a mindful walk, focusing on their breathing, or focusing on something outside themselves, for example, Robinson said.

“It doesn’t have to be traditional 30 minutes. You can do for small moments of time. Some people practice it as intensive mediation where you do it for a longer period of time. Students I work with tend to like to integrate it into their regular routine …,” she added.

Physiologically, she said, it reduces anxiety symptoms so you feel more relaxed and can focus on what you’re doing at the moment.

“I think, actually think, it’s kind of exciting to introduce it to children,” Robinson said.

She added that it would be great to acquire that skill at a young age.

James Webbs, a member of the ECISD Student Health Advisory Council, works for Con Edison Development at a solar facility in McCamey. When the idea of using mindfulness in the schools came up at a meeting, Webbs said they used it at his work.

Con Edison Development is one of three businesses of what are called the Con Edison Clean Energy Business.

Webbs said they start the day by discussing what the day is going to consist of, what major events are coming up, or what’s new. They also talk about safety.

Then they make sure everyone is on the same page and everyone is mindful of the dangers.

“… It tends to calm you down and helps you focus, or refocus, on all the information you’ve received,” Webbs said.

He added that it also makes him more aware of his surroundings and the dangers, such as wildlife and highway travel.

Webbs said he thinks mindfulness will be beneficial to the students and teachers.

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