The Calmer Choice Program
Calmer Choice is an effective classroom-based universal/primary prevention program that integrates social emotional learning, awareness training, and current brain neuroscience with health promotion and wellness education. Delivering the program to an entire classroom, without forcing any student(s) to openly identify challenges they may be confronting, virtually eliminates the stigma of learning the techniques and skills that can address social, emotional, and behavioral challenges while also bolstering inner strength and emotional resilience for all students. The entire class and school community benefits. Providing Calmer Choice to students capitalizes on important developmental windows that set the stage for a lifetime of healthy behaviors, opportunities that may have the potential to improve the health and well-being of an entire generation.
The Calmer Choice lessons are adapted to the developmental levels of the students served (Pre-k to Grade 2, Grades 3 to 5, Grades 6 to 8, and Grades 9 to 12) with specific content for each lesson designed to be flexible and adaptable as needed. Lessons are 20 minutes in length twice weekly for younger students or 45 minutes in length once weekly for students in middle school and high school. The 16 lessons are condensed into 8 weekly lessons for the older students. The lesson concepts are readily merged for older students. The conceptual framework that guides Calmer Choice lesson progression is grounded in current academic and scientific knowledge regarding the benefits of social emotional learning coupled with mindful awareness training for cognitive, emotional, physical, and social well-being and health.
In each lesson a mindful awareness practice is chosen specifically to allow students to embody and personally experience the benefits of the concepts being taught. Each lesson provides alternative activities and methods for conveying the concepts being taught allowing for meeting the particular needs of each classroom and the dynamics among students. The topics covered have been shown to support the development of important skills that:
- manage and reduce the impact of stress in their lives
- enhance ability to regulate their own emotional responses
- increase emotional well-being and stability
- decrease impulsivity
- increase focus and attention
- improve cognitive and executive functioning
- decrease anxiety, depression and other affective symptoms
- reduce blood pressure
- improve eating habits
- reduce behavioral problems, aggression and bullying
- improve sleep
- increase self-esteem
Each lesson plan includes: intention of the lesson, skills to be learned (goal & objectives), a lesson overview and summary, review of previous materials, new material introduced, engaged activities for each lesson, appropriate literature suggestions, mindfulness practice(s), and invitation for further practice between classes.
In each lesson the students practice ways to pay attention on purpose, i.e. focusing on breathing, listening, kindness, gratitude, and happiness.
The lessons begin with a stop and arrive exercise followed by a time to share about their increasing awareness and paying attention in their own lives, then moves to a review of previous lessons. New material is then introduced. Each lesson builds upon the learning and practice from previous lessons.
Students and teachers learn how these skills are like strength training for the brain and has been shown to re-wire neurological pathways that make paying attention, sustaining concentration and regulating emotion easier.
Lesson topics also include brain science and stress physiology, the five senses, body awareness, mind-body connection, emotional awareness, perspective taking, optimism and understanding and compassionately handling difficult emotions.