Welch Elementary School Welcomes Renowned Clinical Psychologist and Children’s Author

January 12, 2023

Welch Elementary School hosted an author talk, using a grant from the Peabody Education Foundation, to teach students about the practice of mindfulness.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, Dr. Christopher Willard, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School, author of more than 19 publications for children and adults, and internationally sought-after speaker and mindfulness educator spoke with students.

“We are deeply thankful to the Peabody Education Foundation and their generous donation, which allowed us to create this mindful space,” said Superintendent Josh Vadala.

Willard read aloud from his book “Breathing Makes It Better,” a book for children about the power of breath and the link between physical and emotional symptoms. Willard also described how to work through different feelings.

Willard then introduced students to basic mindfulness practice through some fun age-appropriate breathing techniques. Willard taught students “alligator breaths,” where you breath in as you shape your arms open like an alligator and breathe out while snapping down and “butterfly breathing,” which is similar to alligator breaths, but while moving arms like a butterfly. Willard also took audience suggestions for new types of breaths. The students were encouraged to ask him any questions they had about his experience as an author.

Afterward, Willard spoke with staff about the impact of trauma on development, the challenges of being in education these past several years and the importance of self-care. He also discussed co-regulation, which flips the script to not ask why this occurred but what the behavior is actually trying to communicate, the science behind mindfulness and how to build emotional intelligence and resilience in children.

Teachers received copies of Willard’s books “Breathing Makes It Better,” “Alphabreaths,” and “Alaphabreaths Too,” which will support them in implementing mindfulness practice throughout the school year.

The grant money was also used to purchase a copy of his book in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese to allow ELL students and their caregivers equal access to the resources.

About The Peabody Education Foundation:
Since 1985, the Peabody Education Foundation has worked endlessly to raise over $1M from within the community to bring innovative programs to our public schools! To make a donation to help fund future innovative programs for our Peabody Schools, visit our donation page.

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