Educating the Whole Child: Mindfulness Curriculum at The Summit

At The Summit, our students receive more than a diploma. Our curriculum and classrooms are designed to value the whole child and focus on not only challenging students’ academic growth but also supporting their social and emotional development, character, and sense of community. Character education is integrated each day as students learn cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. Students learn to work in groups and foster a sense of belonging where they share an excitement and love for learning. The result is well-rounded students who are prepared to think critically and creatively about life’s challenges and adapt quickly to what’s next. 


Throughout the pandemic, adaptability, flexibility, and resilience have never been more critical in preparing students for the challenges today and in the future. Summit faculty and leadership have spent the last two years improving our social-emotional learning resources and implementing new health and wellness practices for our students, faculty, and families.

Lower school students begin class with Morning Meeting to discuss goals for the day. This Responsive Classroom practice is grounded in research and supports students socially and academically. 

Our intentional later start and end times allow for more family time and encourage healthy routines.

We understand the importance of students being well rested and well prepared to start their day. Our classes begin each day at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. This schedule allows students and families more time in the morning and in the afternoon to encourage increased healthy living practices and routines, including eating breakfast, participating in after school sports and activities, engaging in family time, and ensuring our students get adequate sleep. Summit Guidance Counselor, Becky Breckner, LPC, affirms the critical importance of sleep to student success. She says, “A school schedule that can support and value the benefits of sleep is one of the most preventative interventions available to ensure physical, social, and emotional wellbeing for students. Research continues to indicate sleep’s importance on improving learning, memory, and our immune system. I appreciate The Summit’s firm commitment to educating the whole child and recognizing this important factor.” 


Faculty use this additional time each day for planning curriculum and instruction, collaborative teamwork, and to facilitate professional development opportunities, modeling a growth mindset and lifelong learning. 


At The Summit, we seek to spark the joy of learning in all of our students. This doesn’t happen by rote. Our hands-on, project-based learning model emphasizes learning by doing. Students learn to be partners in the process of discovering knowledge with educators providing a balance of autonomy and structure, ensuring students feel both challenged and supported. This progressive approach encourages students to be creative, collaborative, and advocate for their own learning.


Students are expected to demonstrate the executive function skills necessary to ask questions and accomplish their goals while in the classroom, not through hours of homework. We encourage all of our students to enjoy their time outside of the classroom engaging in family time, extracurricular activities, and social or service learning opportunities in their local community.

Fifth grade loves practicing yoga in our Big Backyard under the beautiful trees. 

Students practice yoga from three-years old through high school.

All lower school students participate in yoga instruction once a week, and upper school students have a yoga elective available twice a week. Dulsey Stewart is a Summit parent and also a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCYT). She facilitates yoga instruction at The Summit for Early Learners through 2nd grade. When she learned about the school’s mindfulness curriculum, she was supportive and ready to jump in and be a part of the program. “As a parent, I was so excited,” Mrs. Stewart said. “We could incorporate different forms of movement and awareness to the kids. Not only does it help them academically, but mentally it helps them. It also helps them discipline-wise and just all over total growth for these kids. It was a really good addition.”


Mrs. Stewart recognizes the importance of learning mindfulness practices early so students are better able to control and regulate their emotions as they encounter stress and anxiety in their adult lives. “If they feel themselves getting worked up, I’ve noticed that they will sit and just take a breath,” Mrs. Stewart said. “The most important thing for them to learn is how to stop and check-in with themselves before they make that decision or before they make that bad decision.”


First grade starts their morning with Inner Explorer, practicing positive affirmations.

Mindfulness is incorporated into the classroom each day.

In 2021, Summit faculty started implementing the evidence-based mindfulness resource Inner Explorer in their classrooms to encourage students to practice various mindfulness techniques, including breathing exercises, positive affirmations, and journaling. 

Marissa Bradley teaches Kindergarten at The Summit and utilizes mindfulness techniques in her classroom every day. “It’s super important to consider the whole child’s development,” Mrs. Bradley said. “That’s not just the academic piece. It’s also the social, emotional, regulation and self-esteem and confidence. We’re working towards building their confidence and helping them be successful, not just in kindergarten but all the way through high school and then beyond into their adulthood.”

That confidence building continues through our high school and ACT preparation program with renowned mentor Paul Madar. Mr. Madar specializes in not only the academic content of test preparation but also the psychological aspect of test taking, developing the areas of focus, memory, emotional composure, resilience, and intuition. Summit sophomore Ainsley L. took the ACT Prep course this summer. She says, “Mr. Madar has mountains of experience with the ACT. With the help of Mr. Madar, I was able to increase each of my scores by 5-10 points, and that was just over the summer before sophomore year. This class was a very valuable experience, and I’m very thankful I was able to be a part of it!”

To learn more about The Summit’s mindfulness practices, check out this story featured on KOLR10 in September 2021.


With our expanded WiFi, Upper School students are able to move their learning outside into the hammocks, on top of the tree deck, or under our outdoor classroom pavilion.

Students are encouraged to move, learn, and play outside every single day.

Faculty at The Summit understand the importance and cognitive benefits of movement for our students. In lower school, students have recess twice a day in addition to outdoor learning and exploration in class. Upper school students have an hour block lunch and free period where students love to go outside and walk the track, sit under the trees, play four square and volleyball, or swing in the hammocks.


Our Big Backyard has over four and a half acres of green space in the heart of Springfield that allows us to extend learning beyond the classroom walls. We have installed an outdoor learning pavilion with electricity, ceiling fans, a projection screen, and even an outdoor heater for those beautiful, brisk fall days. For warm, sunny days, students can enjoy class beneath the shade of a canopy of leaves on our tree deck. 


Spanish faculty have used these additional outdoor spaces to reinforce learning through Total Physical Response (TPR). TPR involves playing active games to provide students with the opportunity for movement while utilizing Spanish listening and speaking skills to ask and answer questions about themselves. At The Summit, students receive Spanish instruction todos los días (every day), and TPR is an excellent tool for helping students acquire a second language.


The sense of community at The Summit is strong. We welcome parents as active participants in the learning community and support them every step of the way in their children’s educational growth.

Families have opportunities to participate in supportive parent education programs.

Last spring, The Summit’s accrediting body, the Independent Schools Association of the Cental States (ISACS), presented a four-part parent education series focusing on supporting specific parenting and education issues during the pandemic. This virtual web series brought together experts from across the country to speak on relevant topics including understanding executive function, speaking to your child about race, parenting during a pandemic, and managing stress and anxiety in children and adults. At The Summit, we are proud to be accredited by a national organization built on evidence-based research and best practices and our ability to share these resources with our parent community to foster a supportive environment for our students both in the classroom and at home. Summit parent Dana Thomas says, “I benefited so much from the ISACS webinar! Learning about executive function skills in children was incredibly eye-opening. I am definitely better equipped to parent and support my kids now. Thank you for making these webinars available to parents. I’m already looking forward to the next one!” 


The Summit is honored to partner with Dr. Brandi L. Klepper, a Missouri licensed clinical psychologist, in hosting a special in-person parent education event on adolescent brain development for parents of children entering adolescence and middle school. Since 2002, Dr. Klepper has operated a private practice specializing in children, adolescents and adults who are gifted, talented and/or high achieving. In addition to her private practice, Dr. Klepper teaches at Drury University in the Masters of Education, Gifted Certification program and serves as a Resident Counselor at Drury’s Center for Gifted Education.


To be notified of event details, including date, time, and RSVP information, please join our email list below.

To learn more about The Summit’s academic environment and curriculum, please visit our website. The Summit is currently enrolling students for the 2021-2022 school year and accepting applications for 2022-2023. For more information on our admissions process, contact our Admissions Team at admissions@thesummitprep.org or by calling 417-869-8077.

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