The Water Lily Way

A school counselor's story of how to live, work and play…the water lily way


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School Counseling Connections: Integrating the Outdoors into your School Counseling Program

 

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I think we can all advocate for kiddo’s needing time outdoors! Truly, we all can benefit from time spent outside and in nature. I may have a bit of Wisconsin spring fever right now, but as the weather continues getting nicer, I am challenging myself to find more and more activities that can be done with children out in the sunshine and fresh air. There are so many ways we can work with student’s outdoors as we would inside our school walls, however outdoor time may actually result in additional benefits for our young ones. For instance…

Exercise, movement, physical activity!
Playing outside provides children with something many children don’t get enough of anymore – exercise. Exercising while having fun is the best kind of exercise! Walk and talks can be exchanged for sitting in chairs with students during individual meetings. Team building activities can be utilized during classroom guidance and small groups. Check out the WLW pinterest to see specific team building exercises to use outdoors.

Stimulation of the Imagination
As expectations for students increase in our schools, our student’s imaginations, creativity and freedom of expression are decreasing. Our children are not discovering and experiencing things on their own, rather they are being shown, taught, and instructed. Likewise, growing up in a society that is so consumed in technology does not help with this challenge. Playing outside helps children develop their imagination, which is something that television, video games, computers, iPods, etc. can’t do. Children tend to feel more comfortable outdoors, which allows them to “invent and create things,” once again stimulating their imagination.

Improves self-confidence and social skills

Outdoor play encourages children to risk. Children try different experiences which they normally wouldn’t and grow to be stronger and more confident individuals as a result. Children feel a sense of safety outdoors, which allows them to feel in control and promotes autonomy. Group activities, games, and sports help children learn how to solve problems with their peers. They learn to work together, compromise and communicate with one another.

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Here are some different ways you can incorporate “the great outdoors” into your school counseling program:

  • Walk and talks: Why always sit in chairs with students? Going outdoors allows for exercise, fresh air and increases alertness. The outdoors brings a sense of calmness, relaxation and safety. Isn’t this what we hope to provide to our students as we build relationships with them? Walking side by side helps diminish any sense of hierarchy.
  • Take the sandtray outside!! Sit in the grass with a child as you talk and play with the sand (really, any game/toy/etc. of your choice could be taken outdoors… 🙂 )
  • Journal time: Students may find calmness in journaling outdoors. Allowing for free time to journal at the beginning or end of time with a student(s) encourages autonomy, creativity and independence.
  • Yoga! There is no better place to practice yoga than out in nature…Take your class or group outdoors and see how the change in environment impacts the student’s practice.
  • Termination: For your last session with a student or group of students, encourage students to find rocks out in the school yard to decorate. With either paint/marker have them write words that describe what they learned from your time together, or what they are taking with them as a result of your time together .
  • Deep breathing/mindfulness with bubbles! Check out the link for a fun and soothing activity using bubbles.
  • Planting a flower/plant/etc. with a student or a group of student’s to increase cohesiveness and support the relationship(s) being built.
  • Sidewalk chalk: Sidewalk chalk can replace all sorts of art therapy activities that are typically done “indoors.”

Examples include:

  1. Encouraging students to write strengths/things they like about themselves(This could be done over the course of a day or two with multiple students/groups. It could be an empowering area that would be on showcase for all students in the school to see, names not included obviously.)
  2. Have students draw how they are feeling and suggest that different colors demonstrate different feelings/emotions.
  3. Free draw!
  4. Hopscotch! Why not play a game while chatting away?!

Now let’s hope for some sunshine and enjoyable spring temps the rest of the week… 🙂 -Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

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Bucket Filling!

I’m LOVING this book: How Full is Your Bucket? Kids REALLY seem to connect with the content and the meaning behind the story. The real test, as we know, will be to see if they can apply it when they’re interacting with their peers, teachers, and families… TBD! 😉

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I have been using this book when working individually with kiddo’s, although you could totally use this for a small groups or for an entire class when teaching a lesson. We’ve had requests from teachers to work with numerous girls on friendship skills. How Full is Your Bucket has been a great way to connect with these girls and cover friendship skills such as facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, expression of feelings, inclusion, etc. It typically has been taking me one session just to read the book and talk about it briefly with the student. I usually take turns reading the book with the student (dependent upon age), and conversation evolves as we make our way through. Some of the topics/questions we talk about throughout the story include:

-Who was a bucket dipper? Why?

-How do the character’s feel when their bucket is dipped into? When their bucket is empty?

-Has your bucket ever been dipped into? Emptied? When? How did you feel?

-Who was a bucket filler? Why?

-How can we fill others buckets? How can we fill our own buckets?

-How do we feel when our buckets are full? How did the character’s in the story feel what their buckets were full?

-What can we do at school to be bucker fillers? In the classroom? At recess? At home?

 

When we meet again for a second time, we review what we learned about being bucket dippers and bucket fillers by writing different examples out on a dry erase board or sheet of paper. After, we each create some piece of small artwork, letter, etc. for another person in hopes to fill their bucket! When I meet with the student for the third time, we once again review bucket dipping and filling, and talk about how it felt to fill someone else’s bucket. Here are some other GREAT options of ways to incorporate “bucket filling” when working individually with kiddos, in small groups or in a classroom!

 

Bucket Filling Poem: http://www.pinterest.com/jendemfit/school-bucket-filler-activities/

Bucket Filler Worksheet http://www.hopkinshoppinhappenings.com/2012/10/bucket-filling-freebie.html

Lessons/Ideas from Scholastic http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2010/04/are-your-students-bucket-fillers

Bucket Filling Journal (From http://www.bucketfillers101.com)

Bucket Filling Paper Bucket

Bucket Filling Coloring Sheet

Bucket Filling Form (From http://www.bainbridgeclass.com/files.htm)

Bucket Filling Sign

How Full is Your Bucket? On You-Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=A5R6-2m_qHk

There are tons of other activities and lessons out there -pinterest has lots of great ideas from other educators and parents.

 

Have fun spreading the bucket filling cheer! 🙂

-Jessica

 

 


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Lesson Plans for School Counseling Core Curriculum

An important aspect to delivering a comprehensive school counseling program entails providing students with lessons or activities that are preventative and developmental in design. School Counseling Core Curriculum is often thought of as “guidance,” however curriculum can actually be delivered to students in a school through several strategies such as:

Direct Instruction:

School Counselor’s teach school counseling core curriculum in a variety of subject areas to all students in classrooms, school counselor offices, computer labs and other school facilities. School Counseling Core Curriculum is focused around the three domains: academic development, career development and personal/social development.  The ASCA model encourages school counselors to allocate 35%-45% of their total time spent at school providing students with school counseling curriculum. Not only does direct instruction provide students with knowledge, skills and new awareness’s, but it also assists the school counselor in identifying students who may need further support in either a small group setting or through individual student counseling.

Groups Activities:

The school counselor facilitates groups outside of the classroom to meet individual student needs or interests. The groups promote academic, career or personal/social development to enhance student skills and knowledge within these areas.

 

Examples of possible content topics for direct instruction or group activities:

Academic support

Career awareness

Career exploration

Character education

Conflict resolution

Cultural competence

Goal setting

Mindfulness

Protective behaviors

Relational skills

School safety

Self-management

Social skills

Stress management and healthy coping

Transitions

Wellness

 

The following are lesson plans that could be used to deliver school counseling curriculum to students. The lesson plans have been created using the current templates provided by ASCA for school counselors.

Personal/Social Lesson #1

Career Lesson Plan #1

Academic Lesson Plan #1


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“Bee Breathing” -A Deep Breathing Exercise for Kids

Hi Friends!

I hope your week is off to a great start. Just wanted to share a fun resource with you that I was able to try out with some kiddos at my practicum site today. Before I say much more, if you haven’t tried deep breathing or relaxation exercises with your children or students, don’t let any nervousness you may have to do so hold you back! All of the kids I have tried deep breathing with respond SO well to it. It amazes me! Maybe it has something to do with how fast paced our society is, especially our schools! There are so many responsibilities and expectations in our classrooms today, there often is not time for just “being & breathing.”

Anyways, my cool tool for you! If you check out the website, “www.kidsrelaxation.com” a screen should pop up offering a free subscription for a chapter from the book “Deep Breathing for Kids.” I have not looked into this book yet, however I plan to do so! The free chapter will be sent to you via email, and it has some great breathing exercises for kids. For instance, one activity is “bee breathing.” In this activity children (or a child if you do this individually as I did) practices inhaling and exhaling. During the exhale you encourage the children to make a “buzzzz” sound as they breathe out. I have the Bee Breathing activity listed below, but definietely check out the website for more  mindfulness fun with children! Have a great week! 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

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Bee Breathing

1) Let’s get in a comfortable position to practice bee breathing. Imagine that you are sitting on a leaf or a flower petal. Sit straight and allow the leaf petal to support you.

2) Breath in, allowing the air to just gently come in through your nose, filling up your lungs.

3) As you breathe out, buzz like a bee. see how far your bee is going to fly before sitting down and resting again. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz

4) On the next breath, see if your bee can fly with a loud, strong buzz.

5) On the next breath, see if your bee can fly with a soft buzz.

6) Does it feel different with a strong or soft buzz? How does your buzz feel?

Ideas for use: After breathing practice, draw a picture of a bumblebee and the leaf or flower that you were “sitting” on in your imagination. This picture can be used as a relaxation practice reminder. When you see the picture, practice being like a bee and practice bee breath!

 


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Cotton Ball Hockey & Cotton Ball Races

These are both fun and easy activity for kiddos! I was introduced to do the first game last semester by one of my professors. Both activities are only two of the many activities from Theraplay, a form of play therapy that can be used with children and families. The goals of Theraplay include building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and engagement. Check out the Theraplay website to learn more about this creative & innovative organization!

My kids know exactly what the cotton balls & straws in my play tote are for and often times they ask to play the following games. Both activities can be used with classrooms or for individual/group counseling.

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1-Cotton Ball Hockey Directions:

*Materials: One straw per person, one cotton ball per pair.

Divide students into pairs (if doing with a group or in a classroom). Have each pair sit at opposite ends of a table. Instruct students to begin by placing the cotton ball in the middle of the table. You can give the group the “go” or each pair can be in charge of deciding when to start playing hockey. Students simply blow (using straws) cotton balls back and forth trying to get the cotton ball to the opposite end of the table. If the cotton ball falls off the table (opposite to where one child is sitting) they “score a goal.” Students are not allowed to used their hands, unless picking up the cotton ball from the ground. 🙂

Here is another Theraplay activity. I have only done this one with my kids at an after school program, so we have the luxury of using the hallway or gym when it is free. 🙂 This activity requires a little more space than the first just as an FYI!

2-Cotton Ball Race Directions:

Materials: One straw & one cotton ball per student

Students all line up (or have them divide into teams dependent upon how many you have) at a starting point.  (Note: make sure there is a little room between each student, as they do not typically end up staying in a straight line once they begin blowing their cotton balls.) Students are on their hands and knees, with their cotton ball placed on the ground in front of them. Provide students with a “finish line.” Tell them that once you’ve said “go,” their goal is to make it to the finish line by blowing their cotton ball with their straw (no using hands!). Encourage students to be mindful of other students around them!

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Sounds simple, right? Your kids/teens (yes, teens!) will love these playful activities! Have fun! As always, let me know if you have any questions. 🙂


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Noticing our Kindness: Individual/Group Mindfulness Activity

I was inspired by this activity after looking over some exercises in a book I borrowed from one of my professors. The book is titled, “Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids” by Eline Snel. It’s a small book with simple mindfulness practices for children. I pulled this idea from the chapter titled “It’s Good to Be Kind.” The activity is intended to help children notice their kindness and unkindness. The author suggests having children put a bracelet on their right wrist, which symbolizes their kindness towards others and themselves. Whenever they observe themselves being “thoughtless, unkind or genuinely unpleasant,” they should move their bracelet to their other wrist. This then makes a child become more aware of their acts of unkindness. Others do not interfere with this process by pointing out what the child did or should have done, but rather school counselors/teachers/parents allow the child to recognize their behavior on their own.

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Seems so simple, but powerful…I will keep you updated on my process with this as I am going to expand on this next week when I meet with one of my third grade girls individually. She is having a difficult time making and keeping friends, often times because of her struggle to be kind and respectful towards other students and classmates. My thinking is that we will create a “friendship bracelet” together. We will talk more about being kind to others, and then I will encourage her to use her friendship bracelet throughout the week as the author of “Sitting Like a Frog” proposed in her book. I will of course challenge myself to do the same, because we can all work on being kinder to ourselves, right? 🙂

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With that said, take time to recognize your kindness as we come to the end of the week. How were you kind to others this week, and most importantly, how were you kind to yourself?  ::Be well:: -Jessica


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The language of children -the language of play

My Passion for Play

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Earlier this fall I was introduced to play therapy in one of my graduate classes. I really didn’t know what to think about it at first, but had some similar thoughts to what I believe a lot of people have when they hear the term “play therapy.” How can playing with children be effective? Is anything really getting accomplished? How can play HELP a child?

As I began reading about play therapy, I became more and more attracted to the approach. I began experimenting with play therapy with children in an after school program. I can’t express how “appropriate” play therapy seemed from day one of working with these kiddos. I am still working with these children today on a weekly basis, and engaging with them through play therapy. To say the least, it didn’t take me long until I realized the significance and value in connecting with children through their form of communication. I think as adults, we often times forget that our little ones are still developing, physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially.

For the adult, the natural form of communication is verbalization, whereas for children, their natural form of communication is play and activity. It is difficult for young children to express how they feel because developmentally they lack the cognitive and verbal ability to express what and how they are feeling and experiencing in life. It is not that children do not want to express their thoughts and emotions, but rather that they do not have the vocabulary to do so. Children are typically not able to fully engage in abstract reasoning and thinking until around age 11/12. Play allows children to express and learn about their emotions and thoughts. Play is a way children can learn about themselves, how to resolve conflicts, control their emotions, communicate their feelings and much, much more. Ultimately, play is a child’s language.

Here is just a brief overview of play therapy. The resources I obtained this information from is listed below. I also included a picture of what my play therapy tote currently looks like. Many play therapist have their own “play room” to work with children in, however as a soon to be school counselor I feel it will be more beneficial to have a mobile tote full of toys and materials for my future play experiences with students. As always, please feel free to e-mail or comment with any other questions you may have. J

Play Therapy Provides:

  • A place and time for a child to organize their thoughts and experiences
  • A place for a child to project feelings through self-chosen toys that may be too threatening for the child to express verbally
  • Feelings of acceptance
  • A safe and comfortable place for a child to risk
  • An experience where the child feels in control, and thus more secure
  • A space where a child can test limits, gain insight about behavior, learn consequences and explore alternatives
  • Access to a child’s unconscious thoughts and feelings that they are unaware of
  • Stress inoculation (allows children to play out events they may be anxious/stressed about & helps them become more comfortable with what is to come)
  • Encouragement and competence
  • A sense of connectedness to others; attachment formation

Children Learn:

  • Their feelings are acceptable
  • To be more open in expressing their feelings; instead of being controlled by their feelings
  • To be creative and resourceful in confronting problems
  • Self-control (feelings, emotions, thoughts)
  • Self-exploration/self-discovery
  • To make their own choices, and to be responsible for those choices
  • Social and problem solving skills
  • Assertiveness
  • Empathy
  • Perspective taking

Representation of Toys- Materials chosen and used in play therapy facilitate a wide range of emotional and creative expression by children. Here are what five different categories of toys can represent in play therapy.

Family/Nurturing: Provide opportunities for children to build relationships with the counselor, encourages exploration of family relationships and allows children to project experiences that happen in their lives. (Ex. dolls, puppets, play kitchen appliances, baby bottles)

Scary-Allows children to confront and work through their fears. (Ex. “fierce” animal figures or puppets, possibly trucks, cars or ambulances for some children dependent upon their experiences)

Aggressive-Provide opportunities for children to express anger and aggression and also to learn about and practice self-control. (Ex. play guns, swords, knives)

Expressive-Encourage children to express their feelings, thoughts, emotions, and creativity. (Ex. markers, glue, play dough, paint, feathers)

Pretend/Fantasy-Help children in experiencing different behaviors, attitudes and roles. (Ex. Doctor’s kit, blocks, building materials, costumes, jewelry, masks)

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(Dry erase board, books, stationary, construction paper, markers, crayons, foamy balls, bubbles, glue, scissors, play dough, tea set, cars, soldiers, straws, stickers, dinosaurs, dominos, trucks, glitter, crazy foam, pom poms, toy gun)

*My “play tote” is still evolving! I would to gather more materials for the nurturing and fantasy categories. I hope to get puppets, dolls, dress clothes and masks in the near future. 🙂

 “Toys are used like words by children, and play is their language.”

-Have a wonderful weekend. Jessica

Resources:

Play Therapy Basics & Beyond by Terry Kottman

Foundations of Play Therapy by Charles E. Schaefer

Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship by Garry L. Landreth