Chill program allows students to unwind

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Chill program allows students to unwind

Art students painted the mural in the new mindfulness room.

Art students painted the mural in the new mindfulness room.

Lindsay Bonetti

Art students painted the mural in the new mindfulness room.

Lindsay Bonetti

Lindsay Bonetti

Art students painted the mural in the new mindfulness room.

Elizabeth Perston and Lindsay Bonetti

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One of the biggest issues in high school is the amount of stress and anxiety brought on throughout the day. The new Chill program, which will be introduced to all freshmen and sophomores next week, aims to help.

The Chill program is a grant-funded project initiated by Allegheny Health Network, and is led at Baldwin by therapists Alecia Anderson, Sharon Nau, and Dr. William Davies. The program also is being run at Pleasant Hills Middle School.

Davies coordinated and came up with the idea for the Chill program. He is a former teacher and ran a partial hospitalization program at AHN.

Anderson and Nau are both based at Baldwin High School five days a week. Davies will visit two days a week to oversee the Chill program activities.

The Chill program focuses on teaching both students and staff members some strategies for dealing with stress and staying present in the moment.

There are times in the day where our minds race about the past or future. We’re hoping to initiate this mindfulness before these thoughts can begin.”

— Alecia Anderson

“There are times in the day where our minds race about the past or future,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping to initiate this mindfulness before these thoughts can begin.”

The program is based in Room 322, which has been redecorated with comfortable  seating and dimmer lighting to create a more mellow, calming feeling for students. The classroom, now dubbed the Mindfulness Room, has also been painted a pale blue color.

“There’s research to show that different colors can have an impact on your moods and can relax people more. We want to incorporate this in the room.” Nau said.

The room is also serving as a creative outlet. National Art Honors Society students have painted a mural of a wooded area on one wall.

Next week will be the school’s first “Mindfulness Week,” in which every freshman English and sophomore social studies class will visit the Mindfulness Room for one period to learn and practice various calming exercises. The first session will focus mostly on breathing techniques. The students will return once a month throughout the year.

While only freshmen and sophomores will be making the monthly class visits, any students who feel overwhelmed can ask their teacher for a pass to visit the Mindfulness Room.

When students visit, they can talk to one of the Mindfulness staff members if they need a place to vent, or they can engage in activities like yoga to help them deal with the stress.

Also, a tree playhouse is going to be installed in the room within two to three months, and will be used as a serene place to engage in mindfulness and relaxation activities.

The playhouse, which is being made by popular brand Lilliput, will be large enough to fit six people. It will also be decorated with lights and music to create a calm, relaxing atmosphere.

“Some kids could be stressed out by such a big room,” Nau said of Room 322. “The tree will be a smaller, more comforting area to help with anxiety.”

Students who are curious about this playhouse are encouraged by the Chill program staff to visit and give it a try after it arrives.

The room is not limited to students only. Teachers are also encouraged to visit the Mindfulness Room to take a break and learn new therapeutic skills.

Flyers are posted around the school with a QR code that will link to a Google form. Students can fill out the form to sign up to visit the Mindfulness Room, and it will then act as the student’s pass.

“Don’t be afraid to stop by, even if it’s only to look around.” Anderson said. “It’s open to everyone, any time.”