Originally published March 9, 2020 by KDVR Fox 31 News in Denver.
By Kim Posey
An elementary school in Littleton is addressing the mental health of its students in a unique way. Some students are now wearing heart rate monitors to help them better understand how to control their emotions.
Through a pilot program, East Elementary School has about 30 of the devices that it can give out to students each day, and staff say they are seeing some promising results.
“We have seen a significant drop in our discipline and behavior incidents,” said Kelly Card, the principal.
The heart rate monitors are color-coded and help students recognize when they are stressed, mad or really frustrated.
“Green and red mean I’m really excited, and blue means I’m calm,” said first grader Martha Worth.
In class, all kids learn about their brains, their emotions and ways to self-regulate like breathing, mindfulness or pressure points.
“I would have to take big deep breaths to get it back to blue,” Martha said.
The pilot program is funded by the Littleton Public Schools Foundation, a nonprofit.
“It has been a phenomenal success. The kids have learned to control their emotions. They’ve learned to identify when they are starting to become stressed, and these are lifelong skills,” said Beth Best, the executive director.
Third grader Charlotte Sherwood is glad she gets to be a part of the program.
“I was really emotional in second grade.” She said. “I could cry easily.”
Now, when Charlotte sees the color on her monitor change, she knows to take action.
“It helps me to know if I need to calm down, or I need to just take a moment and get away from that situation,” she said.
The program is such a success that the Littleton Public Schools Foundation is raising $69,000 to expand the program to every elementary school in the district.