Students at William R. Satz Middle School in Holmdel used technology to create “mindful” music which can then be used by all teachers in the district to encourage mindfulness in their classrooms.
Photo courtesy Holmdel School District

By Allison Perrine | [email protected]

HOLMDEL – Music technology students at William R. Satz Middle School have been tasked with creating original musical compositions with meditative tones as part of a three-year initiative to bring mindfulness to the district’s classrooms.

Students spent the marking period studying the characteristics of meditative music and used their findings to create original and calming music. Each song is unique. Some students used sounds of nature. Others used inspirational voice recordings. One student even took her passion for the beach and mixed sounds of birds and the ocean.

At the same time, students were “learning about the effect that music can have relieving stress and anxiety,” said Robert McGarry, superintendent of schools. “It’s exciting.”

The class at the seventh- and eighth-grade school, was developed by teachers Christie Riso and Christina Nigro. “Holmdel’s approach is at the cutting edge of social-emotional learning best practices, where the conversation more and more is shifting to how we resource teachers to have the same skills we hope to teach our students,” McGarry said. “This musical project is evidence that our strategy is paying off, and in innovative ways we had not even anticipated when we started.”

The district has been working with Alan Brown of Learning to Thrive to support their work, a press release stated. “Many schools look to teach mindfulness to children but skip the critical step of providing the adults a chance to understand and develop experience with their own mindfulness practice,” said Brown.

Fifty students have completed the Mindful Music Collection thus far. Their musical creations are stored in a shared drive for all teachers and students in the school district. That can mean playing relaxing music after recess to calm down younger students, or it can mean listening to breathing exercises in gym class at the high school, said McGarry. “It’s really exciting.”

As the year progresses and more and more students take the course, the musical selection will continue to grow.

Additionally, this year the district kicked off its second Mindful Educators Cohort. It allows a group of educators throughout the Holmdel School District to engage in two online courses and in-person training sessions with Brown.

“Our district is committed to supporting the social and emotional health and wellness of our faculty and students,” said Dineen Seeley, director of curriculum and instruction, in the release. “Building our capacity to teach mindfulness is one way we are doing this.”

This article was first published in the November 28 – December 4, 2019 printed edition of the Two River Times.