In light of the momentous changes COVID-19 has caused to our everyday lives, Resilient Lehigh Valley (Resilient LV) teamed up with Lehigh University, The Shanthi Project, Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21, Wildlands Conservancy, Colonial Intermediate Unit 20, and United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley to launch Creating Calm, Together, an online resource full of easy to use, ready to go lesson plans, videos and activity guides to promote Social-Emotional Learning skills, like emotional regulation, mindfulness and perspective-taking. The effort was launched when Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order went into effect in March. Concerns were raised about the emotional health of kids and families under this new reality; pre-covid, 1 in 3 Lehigh Valley middle and high school students reported feeling depressed in the past year. The coalition quickly pivoted to provide resources, including videos, educator lesson guides and classroom activities, to help promote emotional wellness. Building a trauma-informed community and providing social-emotional learning skills for parents, teachers and students was a priority. Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Trauma often has lasting impacts on brain development and so, encouraging teaching and learning practices around resiliency-building strategies is crucial for the foundation of an informed community and raising adaptable children.

Being mindful and aware of the effects of trauma is particularly important due to the many societal changes and challenges we have been facing these past few months. To build awareness and action, the coalition has designed the Creating Calm, Together website and initiative, supporting trauma awareness and trauma-informed practices. Resilient LV also provides virtual trauma-informed training for agencies, individuals and community groups. Resilient LV and its partners also encourage advocacy for trauma-informed legislation, policies and funding to align existing resources and secure new ones.

Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, without any judgment. Awareness of yourself and your feelings can result in increased attention and improved positive emotions such as joy, love, and gratitude. The Creating Calm, Together website offers mindfulness and social-emotional learning (SEL) lessons and resources for educators, parents, and students. SEL is beneficial to people of all ages and has proven to increase self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

The coalition pivoted early to build a website that offered support services shortly following the closure of schools in March. Upon launch of the website and through the remainder of the school year, the Elementary Student section, tailored to young learners in grades K-5, received the most views. Shanthi Project, led by Executive Director, Maureen Wendling, was a contributing partner on K-5 content. “It quickly became apparent just how much educators and parents were looking for resources for themselves and their children to cope with the stress of those early weeks in quarantine.  The news and information overload alone was enough to trigger a negative emotional response, then add job loss, health concerns and homeschooling. By creating a coalition of Lehigh Valley experts, our community was given ONE trusted tool to cope with the growing uncertainty through the practice of mindfulness.”

Wendling explained, “Shanthi Project is thrilled with the site and the continued partnership amongst all participating organizations. The importance of Creating Calm, Together set in when a teacher from Tamaqua emailed me to make sure the Elementary Student page would be live at the start of this school year as well because she and her students found it to be so useful.”

The movement has received such positive feedback from area school districts, the Creating Calm, Together coalition has decided to continue providing resources throughout the 2020-21 school year.

Resilient LV and coalition members intend for the tools to offer support in self-care practice and provide opportunities for children and adults to develop skills in coping with and mitigating stress. Creating Calm, Together strives for all schools, social agencies, parents and our  Lehigh Valley community to be trauma-informed and understand the importance of resilience in these trying times.

 

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