As part of my play therapy training, I had a sandtray class. As a school counselor, I have adapted many of the techniques and things that I learned to be more conducive to a school environment. I use sandtrays in a briefer manner than if used in a therapeutic setting and I tend to not dig as deeper with processing through the sand tray as I would in a non-school environment. I use sandtrays quite a bit individually with students. Sand tray is a great way for students to process through their feelings without having to use words. I have students that will come in, go directly to the sandtray, work for a few minutes, show me their picture, and leave. They feel better, they've processed their issue, and they are ready to go back to class.
I also love to use sandtrays in group counseling. This is something I've experimented with off and on over the last year and I'll be honest, sometimes it works better than others. You have to know your audience. I did a sandtray group last week with a group of 3rd and 4th grade girls that have been in group together for about six weeks. I just asked them to create a picture of their world in the sand using the miniatures that I have available. I turn soft music on and let them work for about 30 minutes. After they have completed their picture, I give them a post-it and have the title their picture. Then as a group, we look at each tray individually. If the student wants to share their "story", I let them. Sometimes they don't want to and that is okay. If other students have a question, I let them ask. Students will become very engaged and interested in what others did and often times the questioning becomes a very bonding experience for the group when they open up and start sharing with each other about their trays.
Sandtray is a great resource for school counselors to use individually with students or in groups. If you are interested in learning more about sand tray, I encourage you to seek out training. It is something you need to have background knowledge about to use effectively.
Here are a few pictures of my girls doing their sandtrays last week.
We had our elementary career day on Friday at my school. It was a super fun day! I was very disappointed that I couldn't be there, but, my daughter had a procedure that prevented me from being there. Here's a run down of some of the fun things we did in our building. Hopefully, you can get some ideas for your career day from us!
Guest speakers - most of our grade levels recruited guest speakers to come in and visit with their students about their careers. Some grade levels spent the afternoon listening to many different speakers and our younger grades focused on just one or two speakers. We had a great variety of people from various clusters.
Dress up day - students were given the opportunity to dress up like what they wanted to be when they grow up.
Parent questionnaire - students were given a questionnaire to take home and interview a parent or family member about their career. These were used in various ways in classrooms during the week of career day.
Snowmen on parade - students were given a template of a snowman. They were to decorate it like a career they'd like to someday have.
Bulletin boards -
I worked with teachers to create two bulletin boards for the students to enjoy before, during, and after career day. One highlighted our educators in the careers they would have if they could not be educators. I titled this board "Career Day - I Could Be A..." The kids and teachers loved this board. It is outside our gym/lunchroom and has been enjoyed by many! Some of our grade levels decided to do these little guys with their kids also.
And lastly, I polled teachers to see what colleges/universities they had attended. I compiled this information and put it in a "bar graph" on the wall. This proved more challenging than I thought because we really don't have bulletin boards. This was done on the wall and on roll paper and then duct taped up to the wall (I know...pretty fancy, huh!)
Kids loved this as well and this was a wonderful opportunity for teachers to share with their students what it is like to go to college, why they went to more than one college, and incorporate some math skills as well while comparing and contrasting teachers and looking at this information in bar graph form. I'm planning to tie this board in to National Counselor Week as well by having a "College and Career Day" this coming week and having staff wear their "college gear" one day during the week.
This is our college board...We took pictures of the staff (the same ones we used for the board above) and taped them to the paper...Then I used google images to make the college logos that are along the bottom of the graph. I backed these on black paper and laminated them so I could use them again. Then we just found some logos and clipart and added them to the rest to fill it in!
Here's a close up of the logos...
That's a quick summary of just some of the things we did for career day. In addition to all of this, our teachers planned fun activities for their grade levels to do throughout the day. This day would NOT have been successful without the hard work of the career day planning team and all of our teachers who did many things to make it a hit!
I'm always looking for ways to re-invent my office or have new and exciting things for my students to see when they come visit me. I have always wanted a therapy dog. I have a Great Dane but I'm thinking she isn't really cut out to be a therapy dog. She does not like people, she barks at anything that moves, and she probably weighs more than most students in my building. Plus, my administrator is not a pet lover. So, after giving up on the dream, I decided to get a couple of "therapy fish!" I know their benefits won't even come close to what a therapy dog could do for my students, but, they'll have to do.
There is research that states that watching fish can have a calming effect on children with ADHD. Other research indicates that people that watch aquariums and fish show a reduction in blood pressure. People are hypnotized by the peace and serenity of fish. It can create a calming moment in a hectic day. Based on this information, my new found "finned" friends will not only help my students, but, they may provide me with some solace on some of my more stressful days!
So, I'm excited to embark on my new "therapy fish" journey. I can't wait to see what my students have to say and if I can notice any therapeutic effects when they spend time with my new pets.
One of my major responsibilities between Halloween and Thanksgiving is coordinating holiday assistance for our families in need. Unfortunately, this responsibility gets larger and larger each year with more and more of my families needing help. Our school district is fortunate to have many community agencies that offer support to our families during the holiday season. The year, various families from my school will be fortunate enough to receive help from the Elks organization, the Shop with a Cop Program in our city, several other community agencies and churches, and our own staff and students in our school. In addition to these avenues, we also have other schools and families that adopt families in our school.
Our student council hosts a coat and hat drive. Many of these items go right back into our own clothes closet that we have in our school. We have great participation in this activity. Our school aged child care program collects dog food and supplies for the local animal shelter in the area. Lastly, our own staff very generously buy gifts for students in our school. This program is called "A Shoe box Christmas." This is the service project I'll focus most of my time on today.
A Shoe box Christmas began at our school 4 years ago when the 5th grade teachers were the ones responsible for planning our building Christmas activities. One of our teachers brought this idea to us and wanted to do it. So, we ran with it. Here's how it works. It is a great way for teachers to make a positive impact on our students. I love it because everyone participates - secretaries, nurses, administration, lunch ladies, teachers, paraprofessionals, etc. This year, our staff are making over 60 shoe boxes for students in our building.
Before Thanksgiving, I send an e-mail out to all staff members asking them to nominate students they feel would benefit or enjoy a "little something extra" this Christmas. These students do not all have to have financial needs. Sometimes, they have experienced a loss or sometimes just need that extra pat on the back or hug. All of our backpack weekend feeding program kids get a shoe box all of our homeless kids get a shoe box and all of our kids living in the hotel get a shoe box After that, it is up to the teachers to decide who they think is deserving or needing of one.
Then, I send another e-mail asking teachers who would like to make a shoe box A shoe box is what it sounds like...a shoe box, filled with around $20 in small gifts, clothing items, candy, treats, etc. for a specific child. I take both lists - kids who need a shoe box and teachers who want to make one (or more) and match them up. Then I e-mail the teacher who they are shopping for (ex. 5th grade boy). They shop, put it in a shoe box wrap it up, and put their name on a post-it note and then return it to me. When I have all of the shoeboxes back in my office, I take my list, take the post-it note off of the shoebox and write the child's name on it. Then I sort them by grade level.
The last day before winter break, I gather the students together by grade level in my office and give them their wrapped shoe box. When the kids ask who they are from, I tell them that Santa brought me a gift for them and wanted me to give it to them. I do ask the students to wait until they get home to open their gifts. The reason for this is that I tried to have them open them at school one year and the students complained when someone else got something better than they did. So, they take them home. We go to a local grocery store and ask them to donate handled brown paper sacks so it is easier for the students to carry them home.
I hope I've done a good enough job explaining the shoe box gift project. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to e-mail me!
One of my professional goals for 2013 is to keep the spirit of giving alive year round in my school. Service learning is going to be my theme for the spring. I'm excited to start exploring the possibilities!
While I always LOVE going to a professional development conference, I always come back with my brain swimming full of ideas that I want to implement and at times, that can be very overwhelming. This year at the MSCA Conference, we were privileged enough to bring in some of the best speakers in the country for our Saturday Institute and keynotes. Julia Taylor, Todd Whitaker, and Curt Steinhorst rounded out our speakers. I took something valuable away from each person.
I also had the honor of spending time with and meeting both Julia Taylor and Julia Cook. These are both incredible ladies who do amazing things to help advance the profession of counseling. I believe our MSCA Conference this year was the most relevant that I've ever attended.
One of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity to present with a colleague Tracy Morris. Our presentation was titled "Pinterest, Prezis, and More!" We quickly highlighted how the following technology tools can enhance any guidance program. Just taking one of these tools and implementing it into your counseling program can drastically change and give your program some "sparkle!"
I thought I would post a few pictures of my office. I have worked really hard to integrate play therapy into all types of counseling.
Here are pictures of what activities are available to students when they come to my office.
Sometimes my play counseling is non- directive and other times it is directive depending on the situation.
Legos, Playdough, sand tray, and the art station seem to be the most popular this year!