The Value of a Sensory Regulation Course

“What is it? It looks like a colorful play course!” inquired the after-school staff.

I replied, “It is a sensory regulation course, and it is used to help students use it as a tool to regulate big emotions. “Wow, we need that, “ he said, “We have some kids with big emotions after school.” “Then this is the place to let off steam and walk out the wiggles while teaching about regulation too.”

To be fair, it is normal for students to have big emotions throughout the school day. Many of our students start the school year feeling excited, but students also feel anxious, worried, nervous, and fearful. So teaching students about regulation, which means knowing when our bodies are in a calm state, and dysregulation, when our bodies feel out of control or uncomfortable, is an important concept. Sensory-regulation courses allow students to move, jump and practice calming breathing techniques to help them regulate their bodies and minds. A two- to four-minute break on the course can help a student return to the classroom calmer, focused, and ready to learn. This tool, paired with learning about feelings and learning tools to help calm ourselves in challenging moments, can help students manage themselves while in school.

This summer, the LumenSparQ board and a group of amazing parents and students worked on painting a three-part regulation course on the 156th Street Elementary School campus. The idea is not new and has been catching on in many districts. When all students are allowed to practice regulation as they motor through, jump, pause, and breath on a course, it can support them in moments of big emotions or the need for a break.

Our volunteer painters working on one of the course elements for 156th Street Elementary School

When students return to school, I would love to say they just come with new backpacks, hopes for a good year, and excitement. The reality is many of our students bring an array of challenges and emotions, which range from anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, and fear. These challenges have been exacerbated by the economic or physical losses due to Covid. Our fantastic teachers are challenged to create a safe environment for all students, offer support and help students navigate challenges so they can learn. Having additional tools can support our students and help us breathe more easily.

Below are additional resources to learn more about Sensory Regulation Courses:

Sensory Regulation Courses (also called Sensory Pathways)

Zones of Regulation:

Sensory Regulation Course

We shared the story of our Lumenary, Ms. Dudley, over one year ago. But as with everything pandemic related, it seems time moved slower than anticipated. As such, it’s taken until now to fulfill our gift to her. This past week, we completed three custom Sensory Regulation Courses on the campus of 156th Street Elementary School.

A future blog post will dive deeper into what a sensory regulation course is and how it can help students to reflect, relax, and refocus, particularly when emotions run hot and they need an outlet.

For this post, we are sharing a few photos and short videos. Here are the three courses we planned out this past spring:

The quad area in front of the office has an outer track of steps and pauses, and an inner track for stepping, jumping, and stopping for a yoga pose.
This small seating area is for meditation and grounding.
On the playground, students and teachers can use the Zones of Regulation to self-regulate, then check out the maze, the alphabet trail, and hopscotch.

With over 45 volunteers on a sunny summer day, we mapped out and painted the courses. We are grateful for the time and effort provided by these community members. Their dedication is a testament to Ms. Dudley’s work.

In these last days of summer, before we all returned to school, the LumenSparQ board and the school’s parent liaison came to campus to stencil in keywords and paint the yoga characters. Below is a short video:

Please check back with us soon. We will follow up with a more extensive post on Sensory Regulation Courses, how they work, and how to use them with your students.

Paying It Forward

Buford 4th grader shares the art lesson with his 2nd-grade friend

After experiencing an enjoyable hands-on lesson on the use of color through clay and paint, as taught by our Ember Project student, Zoë, the fourth-grade students at Buford Elementary School had a desire to share their newfound knowledge with others.

Using surplus clay from their time with Zoë, students from Ms. Lewis’ 4th-grade class prepared an art lesson for the second-graders. Prepped with information from Zoë and some of their own research, the new “teachers” presented works from artists like Andy Warhol, Simone Legno, and Takahashi Murakami to show how color can impact works of art in various ways.

Fourth-grade leaders illustrating the works of various artists.

The younger students were overjoyed to see their older schoolmates in this leadership role and readily engaged with them when it came time to dive into the clay. Students from each class paired up so the more experienced children could assist the younger ones in their creative explorations. Below are some of the highlights from the day.

Thank you, Zoë, for inspiring these young learners to continue spreading the joy of art.

Heroes in the Making

In our search for Lumenaries (educators) and SparQs (students), we seek out individuals doing incredible work for communities in need. Most often, the projects these heroes engage in are long-lasting, working with these communities year over year and touching many lives. As we share their stories and good work, we catch but a glimpse of their impact.

However, beyond our mission to spotlight existing heroes, we also hope to cultivate new ones. In doing so, we seek to spotlight younger students in pursuit of providing a social good. They may have a single project impacting a small group of people within a specific timeframe. On the other hand, their project may be a launch point for some grander objective. While their stories might not be as comprehensive and far-reaching as Lumenaries and SparQs, their impact is nonetheless valuable and significant. We see these individuals as heroes in the making.

Today we introduce the Ember Project to promote this aspect of our mission. The focus of the Ember Project is to highlight student projects that provide a social good for a group or community confronted with a problem. The project may stem from a classroom activity or initiate solely through the student’s personal interests and goals. Our direct support for the project can come in many forms with the intent to promote and enhance their work in a manner they could not otherwise accomplish on their own.

We have partnered with Westside Neighborhood School, integrating the Ember Project with the school’s 8th-grade capstone, called the Passion Project. As with LumenSparQ, the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals drive the Passion Project, and the students’ projects often focus on underserved or underrepresented communities and the problems they face. We will provide a monetary contribution for a selected project(s) that aligns with our mission and demonstrates a need for financial support. Ultimately, the funding must directly impact the community addressed in the project.

Look for a follow-up post regarding our first recipients in the coming weeks. Additionally, please reach out to us if you have a school or program in mind that would fit well with the goals of the Ember Project. We are eager for new partnerships and ways to collaborate.

Lifelong Warriors

Yesterday, March 26, the LumenSparQ board joined El Camino College students, faculty, administration, and community members on the “CommUnity Walk Against Hate” to support the fight against hate, racism, and intolerance. While the focus was on recent anti-Asian hate crimes, the event emphasized inclusivity and unity with people from all backgrounds.

Before the walk, we listened to inspirational speeches from Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, State Senator Steven Bradford, and the El Camino College board members, including their student representative, Karina Ramirez.

The message was clear, “Hate has no home here.”

This walk kicked off the first of many events to be organized by students through the newly created Student Social Justice Center, which will debut in the fall of 2022.

You may remember our first Lumenary, Kim Cameron, as she runs the Warrior Food Pantry here at El Camino College. And each of the LumenSparQ board members started their educational journey on this campus, so our connection is lifelong. We celebrate and support the efforts of these courageous young students.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

I come from Mexican, Indigenous, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Portuguese, African, and Jewish mothers. My DNA test surprised me and made me think of all the women that existed for me to be here. Each of these women had their unique way of looking at life. I can imagine the hardships that many had to endure for me to be here. Many of them sacrificed a lot for the next generation. I can’t help but think about the fabric of my DNA and how many profound thinkers, doers, artists, and creators are represented there. It is an honor to be related to all these women. We at LumenSparQ are thankful for our mothers, grandmothers, and all the women that represent our past.

WOMEN WORK HARD. Their work is often ignored; they are overlooked in the market, discriminated against, marginalized, harassed, and even killed for being a woman, for being Mexican, Black, or Asian. The women around us matter, the women before us matter, the women who are next matter. WE MATTER. Use your voice, vote, and energy to help lay a foundation for the betterment of all women.

We have the tremendous responsibility to protect this earth for future generations, protecting a most valuable resource: WOMEN. Women think, work hard, create, protect the earth, build communities, inspire and dream big. In their greatness, we thrive. Feel inspired by all the women that represent your blood to continue fighting for our equal place in the world.

Our First SparQ – James Kanoff

James Kanoff is the co-founder of the Farmlink Project. In the early days of the pandemic, he and his friends had a simple idea. Let’s make a connection between a local farmer and our food bank. We rent a truck, take the excess produce off the farmer’s hands, and deliver it to the food bank. With this one small act, a movement had begun.

Read the full story…

What History Can Teach Us

Eighty years ago today, on February 19, 1942,  President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry (immigrants and U.S. citizens) from the West Coast of the United States for fear they might support Japan in the war. 

As a direct result of this Order, my parents’ families were moved to relocation camps in the inner states.

My father, Thomas (pictured above), was sent from Los Angeles, California, to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, at age twelve. My mother, Florence, arrived from Seattle, Washington, to the camp at Minidoka, Idaho. She was also twelve.

Each family would spend the next three years in the camps, adjusting to this new life by creating schools and building community within the confines, while armed guards stood watch in their towers until the end of the war in 1945. 

With no “home” to return to, each family found its way to Chicago, Illinois, a city known to be friendly and tolerant of Japanese Americans after the war. 

Let’s learn from both the negative and positive actions that are a part of our history. Do our best not to make decisions based on fear or discriminate against a group because their members don’t look like us. Be inspired by people that choose grit and perseverance over acquiescence and withdrawal. Honor the sacrifice of those who came before us by choosing love and community over hate and division.

Lennox Middle School Book Club

It’s after school on a Tuesday in February. The Lennox Middle School Book Club members have gathered around the table. Our Lumenary, María Saldaña, leads the discussion on two books they have recently read. The students, a blend of middle school ages, sit quietly at first. In her soft yet confident voice, María sets the tone for the afternoon.

The first book is Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. The topics are heavy; there’s physical and emotional abuse, neglect, the foster care system, and all of the challenges it carries. Even so, once the conversation begins, students eagerly engage in the discourse. After a deep dive into the story’s characters, students relate the readings to their own home lives, some disclosing personal events in their recent past. What is shared in this group stays in this group. The Book Club is a safe place.

The second book, Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulson, is comparatively lighter fare. It is the club’s first graphic novel, and within it, vegetables come to life thanks to the magical work of a friendly witch. The book illustrates the themes of kindness, trust, and making judgments based on more than simply someone’s appearance. One young student who doesn’t usually speak up suddenly finds his contributions worthy of dialogue among the members. His feelings of validation are palpable. Everyone’s thoughts and opinions are valued here.

The afternoon ends with the distribution of their next read, Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai. Students depart with anticipation for this new story and another gathering in the coming month.

We are so excited to spotlight and support María’s vital work. This work is on her own time and often her own dime, as there is no school or district funding for the LMS Book Club. This year, we provided books as part of María’s recognition as a Lumenary.

We would love to continue to support her and her students in the years to come. Please consider a donation below if you’d like to support us in these efforts.

If you missed María’s story, you can check it out here.