The College of Education (COE) Office of Undergraduate Studies held its first Cougar Cool Down on December 7, 2015 to help alleviate stress from finals. They plan on continuing the tradition for the Fall and Spring sememsters. Students were treated to a complimentary breakfast, stress relief tips, and a yoga class.
There was a tremendous turn-out for the event and students really enjoyed getting together and having a little down time. Fozia Baig, (pictured right) a student in the Teaching & Learning program, said “I heard about this event in the email I received from the Office of Undergraduate Studies. I’d like to thank the college for always taking care of us, and who can say ‘no’ to a complimentary breakfast?” Students were treated to healthy snacks such as fruit and breakfast bars. Coffee and a variety of teas were served as well.
Students also made snowflakes that are now displayed in the Office of Undergraduate Studies (FH 160). They make a nice addition to the office’s winter decorations! Art, in any form, has long been seen as a wonderful stress reliever and the students enjoyed making the snowflakes.
The highlight of the event was the yoga class led by professor and director of the School Psychology program, Bradley Smith. According to Smith, yoga helps to build stress resilience and promotes healthy relationships. It can also help to support finding the optional place on the stress and performance curve, which is in the middle of too little and too much stress.
“Too little stress or lack of motivation leads to poor performance,” said Smith. “Too much stress can lead to burnout, sickness, or system breakdown and thus hurt performance. Mindfulness allows students to become more self-aware and improve self-regulation to maximize health and performance.”
Smith hopes that teaching yoga during Cougar Cool Down will be the beginning of a transformative relationship in COE that encourages programs or departments in the college to work together to provide unique experiences. “In the case of teaching yoga, I hope this will become a recurrent opportunity, perhaps a class, for developing teachers who often report being overly stressed,” said Smith. “With the right training, I think teachers can and should be great role models of stress management in schools, which will lead to happier, healthier, more productive schools. “
Smith thinks Houston and COE are poised to come together to be world leaders in yoga and mindfulness research. “I derive satisfaction from my progress and seeing my cues to students result in transformations in their practice, state of mind, or state of emotion,” he said.
Smith is currently involved in a few studies involving K-12 and yoga. He is looking at individual engagement and frequency of yoga on student outcomes at a middle and high school in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). Smith is also comparing students who do yoga, with those who do not at YES Prep. In the future he hopes to be involved with a couple of studies at KIPP, one involving teachers and staff who are offered yoga, and another where he is teaching yoga to teachers, and helping to evaluate a school-based mindfulness and wellness program. Smith teaches yoga at KIPP Intrepid Preparatory School on Monday afternoons from 4:45 to 5:45pm and the classes are free and open to the community.
“One of our goals in the Undergraduate Studies office is to promote student involvement with the College, provide opportunities for students to get to know each other, and to let them know how much we appreciate them,” said associate dean of Undergraduate Studies, Andrea Burridge. “The original idea for the Cougar Cool Down came from Meghan Galvan, a COE Student Government Association Senator. The event was a huge success and we plan on making it a part of finals week each semester. I think the highlight of the event was definitely the yoga session!”
Please visit the College of Education's Flickr page to see photos of Cougar Cool Down.