By: Jillian Klatt
Last week during the first day of Superhero Summer Camp, the students were introduced to their first villain, the Brain Eater, who steals the students’ focus. This week the students learned about Rock Brain and Glass Man. Rock Brain makes the students become inflexible with what they are doing or thinking, like when they want to continue playing even when their parents tell them it is time for dinner. Glass Man makes the situation even worse, causing kids to “shatter” when they are upset like when they are told to do something they do not want to do. To overcome these villains, the students learned how to stay calm in stressful situations and use their expressive language to communicate their emotions rather than throw a tantrum. Above is a picture of Mrs. O showing the students what it looked like when Rock Brain and Glass Man get into their heads.
If it was not already clear, this week’s superpower is self-soothing! Mrs. O asked the student’s what kinds of things they do to calm down when they feel frustrated or upset. Some of the answers were taking deep breaths, listening to music, counting to 10, going outside to get some fresh air, and petting a favorite pet—like Sophie the WonderDog! Another helpful strategy to turn a frustrating situation into a productive one is by expressing those thoughts and emotions. Mrs. O told the students to pause and ask themselves, “How am I feeling right now?” “What do I need?” and “Can we reach a compromise?” Then tell their conversational partner the answer to these questions. With this method, there are three steps to calm down: pause, think, and communicate!
The first step of remaining calm includes that whole list of strategies the students discussed earlier. The problem is, Rock Brain does not always let the students remember those strategies! To help the students remember, Mrs. O had them write down or draw out some of their favorite things that can help them calm down before Glass Man causes them to have a meltdown.
Rock Brain and Glass Man love to attack during social situations, like when kids play together but run into a disagreement. Rock Brain causes the kids to not be able to see the other’s side, while Glass Man makes emotions difficult to control. Mrs. O decided to do another key hunt this week to practice cooperation and teamwork since the students had a blast with the treasure box activities last week. This time, the students were paired up so they could work on one-on-one communication and emotional self-control while searching for keys hidden around the playground. After each pair had found a key and unlocked one of the locks, the treasure box opened to show materials to make personal stress balls for each of the students! Stress balls and fidgets can be beneficial in helping children and adults pause and think—the first two steps of calming down—by reducing stress levels and giving their nervous system something to focus on while their minds settle down.
The last step to taking down Rock Brain and Glass Man is to clearly communicate those negative emotions. To show the students that both their words and their body language can express emotions, I showed them some American Sign Language to the song Firework by Katy Perry. Not only did this song fit perfectly with recent holiday, but it has some great references to self-expression! The students were allowed to feel the music and “dance it out” during the opening verse which mentions feeling like a “house of cards one blow from caving in.” Sounds like Glass Man may even be getting to Katy Perry sometimes! Then I showed the students how to “let their colors shine” using sign language when the chorus came on. While none of these students use American Sign Language as their primary form of communication, it is important for them to see they can express themselves through means other than just words. In addition to spoken communication and body language, Mrs. O and Mrs. M showed the students that they can also express themselves through art. Painting is a wonderful way to put a pause on the overwhelming emotions caused by Rock Brain and Glass Man while also facilitating communication with a visual message!