Rathbeggan National School, Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath
Through discussions with our staff, Parents Association and Board of management we decided to trial a mindfulness programme in November 2015 with one class and one learning support group. Our parent and primary teacher Una Curran volunteered to teach Mindfulness and Well-being once a week and we monitored the results. The class teacher could see that the class were calmer and beginning to use more emotional language to explain their feelings. We expanded the classes by the end of 2016 and during 2017 all classes had the chance to experience it on a rota. During this academic year we have realised that the levels of anxiety among our children has grown so much we needed to expand it to all classes having a weekly session of Mindfulness and Well-being. We applied to Meath council and were given a grant of €1000 to fund the classes for children, training for staff and well-being talks to parents.
We felt we needed a space in the school that children could use to support their sensory systems as we know the impact sensory overload can have on a child’s physical and mental health. Due to our increase in the amount of children accessing learning support in the school we had to add temporary classrooms to facilitate this. Our parent association agreed to fund a multi-purpose room that would be our library and sensory space inside the school. Our classes now use this room for their weekly mindfulness session, quiet time for reading and groups use it for Sensory development work.
Each session for classes has the same format and theme each week but differentiated according to the age of the class. The format of the lesson is Mindful breathing, Brain gym & yoga movements, a story or pictures of the emotion/feeling, story massage based on the theme, a children’s visualisation or mediation and ending with 3 mindful breaths with a sound bowl.
We felt one lesson a week was not enough to fully make an impact on positive mental health, it needed to be increased. Teachers and SNA’s all received training and a sensory box that included tools that children and staff can use each day in class. Posters were put up around the school and in the staff room to remind children and adults about their mindful breathing, that all feelings and emotions are important and being an individual is important.
We wanted to engage our parents and organised a variety of talks to support them including Internet Safety and Alcohol awareness. We also trialed parent and child session for 1st class with a view to expanding this to other classes. The parents were given a talk about the mindfulness & well-being programme and then their children came into the hall to do story massage with their parent and demonstrated their ability to meditate. Parents were encouraged to follow this up at home with support material. The weekly homework also gave parents the chance to see how important well-being homework is to their child.
Last April, Rathbeggan came in the top 10 Primary schools in the Mission Possible awards and this April we came 2nd. The National Primary Schools Mission Possible awards are in association with Walk in my shoes based at St Patricks Mental Health Hospital in Dublin 8. The awards celebrate Primary and Secondary schools that promote and support mental health. We have further plans for next year but can only do this with outside funding. Una Curran has planned and delivered most of this programme on a voluntary basis. We would like to be able to pay her to come in and work with each class once a week and deliver workshops to our parents. We feel that many of our parents are asking for help and ideas on how they can support their child's mental health at home.
A grant of €2000 would pay for Una Curran to teach Mindfulness and Well-being for 10 weeks each Thursday. Our 8 classes would each have a 30 minute lesson in our Sensory room or in the hall when the lesson includes more yoga. The themes of the lessons would include angry feelings, scared feelings, joyful feelings, gratitude, kindness, positive affirmations, calm feelings and more. The Parent and child Story massage workshops were trialed this year with 1st class class and we received very positive feedback.
€1600 would pay Una Curran for 10 days teaching.
€300 would pay Una Curran to plan and deliver 6 Story Massage workshops to parents and children during the school day.
€100 to buy Relax kids books for Mindfulness for each class throughout the school.
TOTAL: €2,000/ $2,343
“We’ve been practicing mindfulness and well-being with Una for just over 6 months now and it is so lovely to see the positive impact on our First Class group. One of my favourite outcomes is how the children have become more aware of others and more caring as a result. Also, I can tell they enjoy it because they come in and tell us about practicing story massage with their families.”
Finn O’Carroll SNA in 1st Class
"I think the Mindfulness lessons are good because they help me relax if I am tense and calm me down before I go back to class." Meabh Ni Churraidhin 6th Class age 12
“I like the bit when she reads a story to us, I like the stories about our feelings. I like it when you get to lie down and you close your eyes and you imagine you are in different places. I like it when she bangs the bowl, I like that sound.” Danny Casey Senior Infants pupil age 6
“As a teacher, I have noticed a huge calming effect on the children in my class during and after their mindfulness sessions. At first, some found it difficult to relax but it didn’t take long for them to take to it. As a parent, I have found mindfulness to have a very positive effect on my children. They have brought new strategies home with them and independently use them when needed; especially mindful breathing. My eldest child has done story massage on me and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it!” Deirdre O’Toole – Class Teacher and Parent