NEWBURYPORT — Edward G. Molin Upper Elementary School students took a break from the curriculum this week to focus on their social emotional wellbeing with the help of yoga, guided meditations, gratitude journals and mandala drawings. 

The school hosted Wellness Days for the fourth grade on Monday and the fifth grade on Tuesday to allow students to unwind a bit, especially given the year they have had amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Wellness Days were initially thought to be an alternative to Field Day, but recent changes to state COVID-19 guidelines will allow the school to host Field Day anyway. 

The alternative ended up working in the school's favor though, as some students preferred the mellow activities over the traditional Field Day.

"Field Day is not for everyone, so this is kind of a different Field Day," Assistant Principal Jamie Sokolowski said, adding that the school may make this an annual event.

"Even in non-COVID years, social emotional wellbeing is our top priority," Sokolowski said, noting that teachers, counselors and support staff are focused on creating a sense of community at the school.

Molin Upper Elementary is a "trauma sensitive school," which means that most of the staff has been certified in trauma sensitive teaching through Lesley University. This certification teaches staff members how to recognize the signs of trauma in students and helps them create safe, supportive classrooms for students to be heard, seen and understood. 

Wellness Days are "not a one and done thing," Sokolowski said, explaining that students need to have access to these types of resources at all times. These activities were just a reminder of some of the wellness techniques that they can use throughout each and every day. 

The school originally planned to host Wellness Days last Thursday and Friday, but rescheduled them to Monday and Tuesday due to rain in the forecast. With temperatures in the 90s this week, the school ended up hosting these activities indoors anyway.

Sokolowski, who taught yoga to the fourth-graders on Monday, said "It was really fun to see the different personalities of the classes. Some were very high energy, while some were very low energy."

Beth Houliha from Roots to Wings Yoga & Healing taught yoga to the fifth-graders on Tuesday.

Fifth-grader Maddox Doherty, 11, admitted he "wasn't looking forward to Wellness Day, but I actually kind of enjoyed it," saying he liked the yoga. 

His twin, Piper Doherty, agreed, saying "I just thought we were going to sit in a chair and close our eyes for a bit."

Piper told her mom that she didn't want to go to school because of this. 

"Now, I am here and this is pretty nice," she said. 

Fifth-grader Yoseph Sills, 11, enjoyed drawing the mandalas and interpreting the assignment with a more abstract outlook. 

The students were originally going to draw mandalas with chalk outside on the blacktop, but they opted for chalk on paper indoors due to the heat. 

All students also received wellness kits to take home, featuring acupuncture rings, chalk, bubbles, stress balls, etc.

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