WARREN, NJ - At the Warren Township Board of Education meeting this week,  board members and the public in attendance were treated to a presentation on stress, hosted by Warren Middle School seventh grade students and supported by Language Arts teacher, Emily Baker. The seven students in attendance, along with their peers, have been participating in a 21st century learning project which combined Language Arts with Character Education.
At the start of the Board Meeting, students posed the following questions to the audience: What stresses you out? How do you deal with that stress? A variety of people shared daily stressors common to the masses, such as commuting, deadlines, and traffic; all of the audience nodded in agreement. Students again polled the audience for solutions on how individuals relieve their stress. Some examples shared were making lists to stay organized, listening to music, and engaging in exercise.
As the students went on to explain, initially Dean of Students Max Achtau and the Character Education Committee, presented Baker’s class with a problem; find out how students deal with stress in their daily lives. The students developed an age appropriate video, highlighting a tangible breathing technique, that not only would prove helpful, but would not interrupt the flow of a classroom or disrupt any public venue.  The group then made a follow-up video where they conducted interviews with students, teachers, and administrators. In their candid conversations, interviewers asked for personal experience, feedback, and helpful solutions. After each video segment, the seventh grade students went to the sixth grade Character Education meetings to facilitate discussions on the topics of stress and how to alleviate it.

A highlight of the Board presentation was a demonstration of  the square breathing technique by student  Marianna Renda. Using visual aids, she demonstrated the simple steps clearly; one must inhale, hold, exhale, hold, and repeat… all for four second intervals outlining the shape of  a square, hence the name.
At the conclusion of the presentation the group members shared what they had learned. They developed problem-solving and leadership skills, enhanced public speaking and time management, and benefitted from collaboration with their peers. “This was wonderful because students worked across all grades and curriculum,” said Baker.
Baker described how the idea was born from her attendance at a workshop focusing on 21st century learning, and how to design effective 21st century projects. The workshop coincided with Achtau’s initial request. Baker commented on her lightbulb moment, when she realized she could incorporate research, script writing, and other skills aligned with Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and Literacy into an exciting project.
At the conclusion of the event, multiple Board members praised the students. “It was remarkable seeing their poise, and ease in talking to an audience and their administrators,” said Board Vice President Kathy Helewa.