Burrell First Graders Learning How to Recognize, Control Emotions

Managing emotionsFirst-grade students at Bon Air School are learning ways to deal with their emotions as part of an ongoing project in the Burrell School District to give students the tools they need to understand and manage their feelings.

The students are participating in The Zones of Regulation Program, a curriculum designed by licensed occupational therapist Leah Kuypers to encourage self-regulation and emotional control in students.

"This is a fantastic way to teach emotional intelligence to younger kids," said Dr. Greg Egnor, Burrell's Director of Student Services.

Emilie Greiner, a counseling interventionist for the district, works with students in Kristen Cernicky's first-grade class twice a week. She began using the Zones of Regulation materials last year in her one-on-one meetings with students to help them manage their emotions. She expanded her outreach in January to Cernicky's class after the two discussed how the program helps children identify and process emotions.

"We're still kind of in the beginnings of this," Greiner said, adding that the students have embraced the program that has already produced results. "They're talking more about the feelings they're having."

Greiner, who joined the district last year, will spend about six weeks with the class, teaching students how to identify feelings, categorize them into different "zones," and manage them.

"They're excited about learning that," she said.

The green zone represents happy, calm, proud, and focused feelings. The yellow zone represents worried, frustrated, silly, and excited feelings. The blue zone represents sad, bored, tired, and sick feelings. The red zone represents panicked, angry, terrified, overjoyed, and elated feelings.

Students learn to use tools and strategies to manage the different zones so they can meet goals, such as finishing schoolwork or other tasks, managing big feelings, and developing healthy relationships. They also learn that all emotions are valid and good. It's just a matter of how you deal with the emotions.

"I hope to see the students being able to identify their feelings," Greiner said. "I hope they can learn how to get back in the green zone."

Egnor explained that the program is an outgrowth of ongoing efforts to help students cope with issues. "We're primarily concerned with how things affect them in school."

The district hopes to expand the program into other classes next year as a model for all kindergarten and first-grade students. Egnor said the goal is to make the program part of the core instructional opportunities available to students. 

"It's working really well," said Dr. Egnor

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