By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – A simple thermometer has been turned into a valuable tool for teachers at Shrewsbury elementary schools. A five-point thermometer, created by Suzanne Margiano and Cara Demoga, psychologists at Floral Street School, has helped students to identify their feelings and recognize stressful situations.
“The thermometer itself is a tool that’s used to serve a larger purpose of helping students to self-regulate and to be fully present in where they are and whom they are with,” Floral Street School Principal Lisa McCubrey said. “It’s one tool, the anchor tool.”
Using the thermometer, students are taught to listen to clues their bodies give when their feelings or “temperature” starts to rise along steps from one to five. Teachers use the phrase “3 is the Key” and students know that when they have reached a “three” on the thermometer they need to use a calming strategy.
McCubrey explained, “We teach students to be aware and to recognize [key time] because when you recognize it, you can plan.”
By planning, the students use their calming strategies, including deep breathing, relaxation exercises and yoga.
The thermometer was first used in small social skills groups and was primarily used for students on the autism spectrum. However, other teachers saw how it worked and realized how it could work in their own classrooms so its use spread throughout the school and to other schools in the district.
“[The thermometer] is really the foundation tool to help kids self-regulate by assessing their self-control,” said Demoga, who works specifically with students in first and second grades. “If you have a student who is disregulated you are never going to get to what you need to cover in a day. Morning meeting is a natural opportunity to model what you need to do to get ready!”
“It is absolutely the anchor tool to everything else that we do,” added Margiano.
Margiano and Demoga, along with Ellen O’Leary, a retired school speech pathologist, wrote a grant proposal, “Strengthening the School Community through Social Thinking and Self-regulation.” The grant was awarded by the Shrewsbury Education Foundation (SEF). With this funding, and a supplemental grant from the Corridor Nine Chamber of Commerce, they were able to create a library of resources which would be available to all teachers, specialists and staff.
“It is through the generosity and support of the Shrewsbury Education Foundation that much of this work has been possible,” Margiano said.
The Walter J. Paton Elementary School is just one of the other Shrewsbury schools seeing benefits from using the thermometer.
“The five-point thermometer has had a positive impact on Paton’s school climate,” noted school psychologist Angelina Adams. “We are observing our students becoming more aware of their thoughts and feelings both in themselves as well as others. Some students have asked for a second thermometer to take home. We encourage all Paton families to brainstorm appropriate calming strategies for use at home.”