Cascades Academy Independent School PK-12
Expressing Gratitude

Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness and joy we feel in response to something we receive, whether it is a gift of something we can hold in our hand or as simple as a smile. When we reflect upon the things we are grateful for, our thinking becomes calmer and immediately comfort and uplift the spirit. People who express gratitude regularly have more positive emotions, sleep better, express more compassion, and even have stronger immune systems. This practice helps to shift our mindset and promotes a more optimistic perspective. Students are learning about the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems of the body and how the sympathetic or "fight or flight" system of the body is reserved for high stress situations where you may be in immediate danger. Expressing gratitude helps children to tap into their parasympathetic system which calms the body, slows heart rate, and contracts the pupils combating the sympathetic system response.

In mindfulness class, students have been learning about gratefulness and how to incorporate this practice in their everyday lives. Beginning with morning meeting, students greet one another and weekly express positive feelings about their peers. Often, when students share in meeting we thank them for their thoughts and participation. At closing circle students reflect on their day and on occasion we express something we are grateful for that day. To intrinsically motivate students to continue to reflect on what they are grateful for we change up the routine or how we reveal what we are truly grateful for. Throughout the year we strive to create opportunities for children to appreciate each other, all they have, and the simple things life has to offer.

-Mrs. Elkins, 4th/5th Grade Teacher
Diversity and Inclusion in 4/5
Diversity and Inclusion in 4/5

Most recently we posed these questions to our students. What is diversity? What does it mean to be diverse? We also asked them about inclusion and how diversity and inclusion work together to make a strong community. Many students were able to identify that having a diverse group of people makes play time more interesting and interactive. They discussed that a diverse group brings different skills, ideas, and challenges. Diversity can be a difference in age, skill, background, or interest levels.

"If I am working with a diverse group of people on a project rather than just my friends who share my same interests, I think that the project will be so much more interesting because of all the different ideas," Finn said during our conversation.

Many students chimed in, in agreement, and thought including others during recess, that they did not normally play with, added to their experiences on the yard. Some even invited much younger students to be involved in their imagination play to add a whole new level of creativity. Students were also able to identify that inclusion is more than asking others to play at recess. Inclusion is to involve them in the play and work together, listening to ideas, and compromising when necessary. It is fascinating when students can apply classroom discussions to their everyday lives, and once they have these realizations, how involved they become in making it a reality.

-Mrs. Elkins, 4th/5th Grade Teacher

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