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Children bring happiness to Casemates

Notre Dame Sch Casemates 14-02-2018 (Photo John Bugeja) part of the school's mindfulness programme. Children written up happy messages to give out to everyone in Casemates.A photo booth was also set up.

Pupils from Notre Dame School brought happiness and random acts of kindness to passers-by in Casemates yesterday as part of the Mindfulness in Schools project.

Shianne Walker-Peliza, from the Mindfulness in Schools project and Jeanette Gonzalez, the special needs coordinator for the school, have been working together to make yesterday’s event possible.

“The idea is that we try to make our school happier and one of the things we had was the random act of kindness and to do this on Valentine’s Day by giving something back to the community,” said Ms Gonzalez.

The children handed out items such as paper love hearts, sweets, little messages, rocks with words like ‘love’ written on them and crochet hearts.

“The idea is that giving makes you feel happy,” she added.

All children in the school except for nursery took part in the event.

Passers-by appeared delighted with the tokens of love and acts of kindness, including some police officers who were stopped and also given these tokens much to the children’s delight.

The children also gathered around in a circle and sang Frank Sinatra’s song - L.O.V.E. with actions.

As part of Notre Dame school’s performance management this year, it took on mindfulness so that children would learn how to relax, how to focus more and how to deal with issues of conflict.

The team from Mindfulness work for four weeks with each year group in the school. They are also working with other schools in Gibraltar.

“They are giving them different techniques to use with they are upset or have emotions like that,” said Ms Gonzalez.

Twelve targets created for and by the children to ‘make Notre Dame a happier school’ were also drawn up.

Some of the targets included are being happy for others when they achieve something- congratulate them, reminding children about the friendship bench in the playground where children can go to talk to someone when they feel upset or feeling left out and making a food bank for people in need.

The mindfulness in schools project is run by the Happiness Movement, a group of seven volunteers who are working with teachers and students in developing life skills. Each takes it in turn to go to the schools and conduct the various parts of the four weeks.

The skill set of the volunteers include professionals with different backgrounds in mindfulness, counselling and working with children. “We have come together to do this project and it will take the team the whole year to do all the schools in Gibraltar,” said Ms Walker-Peliza.

The project enables children to learn how they can generate their own feelings of happiness without relying so much on what is around them and instead on their own minds and hearts.

It also teaches children how to calm down and be less hyperactive, giving the example of students knowing how to prepare for an exam and study for it but they might not have the skill set to focus and complete the exam to the best of their ability.

Part of the skills being thought is the power of breathing and how your breath can help you in different situations such as when you are nervous, like in the case of an exam or if you are upset and need to calm down.

“The aim of Mindfulness in Schools is to give children resilience tools for life, so they are better able to go through to life without getting as stressed or worried as we are. It is about their mental wellbeing,” said Ms Walker-Peliza

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