Anaconda, MT: Elem school gets "sensory pathway" to help kids 'self-regulate'

Jan 8, 2020, Butte Montana Standard: A social-emotional learning approach transforms an Anaconda school Youngsters in Anaconda may just be a hop, skip and jump away from succeeding in school. In a corridor at Lincoln Primary School, a color sequence of decals was recently affixed on the hallway floor, creating a pathway that directs you to hop, jump, leap, squat, push, focus and balance to the other end. “So this whole thing here is the sensory hallway, and we added it as a way for kids to calm down themselves,” said Norah Barney, Lincoln Primary School principal. She said the school’s occupational therapist, Addie Hall, created the pathway just in time for the 2019-2020 school year…. While it helps students with motor skills and provides sensory input, the sensory hallway is part of a larger movement to get Lincoln students to learn how to “self-regulate.” “What’s self-regulate? So think of it like: ‘When you get upset, are you able to calm yourself without assistance?’” explained Barney. “In other words, we’re trying to teach our kids the skills to calm themselves independently.”… School counselor Rose Kellegher, left, and Stacy Caissey, the family counselor at Lincoln Primary School, demonstrate the use of a social exercise designed to resolve conflict for elementary students. Meagan Thompson, The Montana Standard Lincoln started implementing Conscious Discipline into the school curriculum in 2016. Before that, Barney remembers a time when her staff used to have many challenging students. The kids were apathetic to the school work, disconnected from their teachers and from their classmates, and often, combative. “We’d see desks thrown, chairs, and lots of anger and crying and such,” said Barney. “And there’s still a little bit of that. It’s not perfect — this is not like a magic pill at all. But, definitely, the kids have tools and now the teachers have tools. And that’s probably the most important part, that teachers now have tools to teach the kids how to regulate, whereas before we didn’t have that. Instead, we just would give consequences.” Rose Kellegher, Lincoln school counselor, said the previous disciplinary approach was very punitive, rigid, and strict. Five years and a top-to-bottom transformation later, Lincoln is unrecognizable. New teachers hired at the primary school would have a hard time believing that, just five years ago, the office referral rate was 300 per year and physical altercations and thrown desks were not uncommon among elementary school students. Instead, new students and teachers see a Lincoln with “safe places” where bean bag chairs, pillows, dolls, and books are common and custom classroom songs are sung with pride. Barney, with the help of the Montana Office of Public Instruction’s preschool specialist, Maureen Kampfe, worked to bring a wellness and social emotional program to fit the school’s needs. According to Barney, Lincoln was awarded a Montana Preschool Development Grant in 2015 and has been using the grants for the past five years to “to train staff and implement the social emotional learning program with onsite coaching.”... Meagan Thompson, The Montana Standard The grant has also covered the material for classrooms, such as the sensory hallway and “safe spaces.”… In addition, the school staff offers parents a seven-week workshop on Conscious Discipline, so that parents can practice the skills their kids learned at home…. Lincoln Primary School was the first school in the Anaconda School District to implement social-emotional learning and Conscious Discipline into the school curriculum. This year, other schools in the district have now integrated social-emotional learning, according to Barney, and by all accounts, it is transformative….