By Christina Lavigne, Clinician

Over the last year and a half, the pandemic has made us get creative with how to connect to others while remaining socially/physically distant. All schools had to make difficult decisions regarding reopening while thinking about the safety of their students and staff. Carteret Middle School utilized the hybrid model when they were able to return to in-person instruction. During a regular school year, The PATH program would be running numerous groups, clubs, and activities during and after school hours. Since large in-person groups were not a viable option this year, the program utilized many different virtual platforms to connect with the students and help the students connect to their peers.

In the past, the Boy’s Group and Girl’s Group were held weekly after school for interested students. At the beginning of 2021, The PATH asked for the help of our students to brainstorm a new name for a new group. The group name that was chosen was ‘Mind Time’ and the group focused on social-emotional learning topics and social connectedness. All groups were held via Zoom weekly or bi-weekly and all interested students could attend. The weekly attendance for the group ranged from three to 20 students. The topics included addressing peer pressure, boosting self-esteem, self-love, healthy vs. toxic friendships, healthy coping skills, etc. All activities involved very few materials so all students could participate while at home. For the self-love topic, for example, the students created a paper-sized poster of all the positive qualities they possessed and then shared it with the group. For the peer pressure topic, facilitators role-played difficult scenarios with the students and helped them find ways to deal with tough decisions.

The main focus for this group was to provide a space where students could feel connected to other students in a time when many people felt isolated. Students interacted virtually by participating in various ice breakers, get-to-know-you games, and synchronous online games. Students were most engaged when they were able to talk freely amongst each other, play games, and just have a space to see each other (that was not their Zoom classroom). On numerous occasions, students exchanged contact information so they could connect outside of school. Even though virtual meetings can be a challenge, it was wonderful to see so many students participating in Mind Time! It will be interesting to see how Mind Time can evolve and continue to serve the CMS students as we transition into a new normal.

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