School’s out for the summer, but that’s not stopping Ruth Beauchamp — educator and founder of Oranda, a Pacifica-based company that develops tools and resources for teachers to better engage students — from contacting school district decision makers about her premier product Recessitate, color-coded activity cards that calm down, wake up or gear up students for learning within a matter of minutes.
“I'll also network with professional development gurus that work with teachers to develop partnerships and visit local parent groups as a guest speaker as well as attend expos to reach my target audience,” said Beauchamp, an expert in classroom management and student engagement who established Oranda last year after 10 years of teaching teachers and making thousands of classroom visits.
“I'm keenly aware of the terrific pressures our teachers and students feel in the current educational climate," she said.
That experience is what inspired her latest product Recessitate, a recipe box of 24 playful activity cards with fun activities to “manage a student's mood for today's learning and workspaces while decreasing unwanted behavior, increasing student focus, engaging diverse learners, and building classroom rapport,” said Beauchamp.
Screaming in the classroom, sluggish, tired kids, fidgety and anxious energy, you name it, after years of observing unengaged students and stressed-out teachers, “I felt a great urgency to create a tool to refresh, refocus and recharge our students and teachers,” said Beauchamp.
Recessitate activities are the result of three years of intensive research on experts in moving and learning, occupational therapy, neuroscience and mindfulness and their positive effects on student engagement and classroom climates.
For teachers, Recessitate is an efficient way to get students in the frame for learning and incorporates both physical education and health standards in a fun way that builds relationships and creates a sense of classroom community.
For students, Recessitate teaches self awareness and self-regulation by providing a set of strategies that students can take with them throughout their life to shift their energy for the better.
This is how it works: teachers “read the room” to determine what color card is needed. Blue cards are for calming down and have activities to relax the mind and body. Orange cards provide activities for gearing up by stretching and crossing the midline to help focus, and purple cards get the blood flowing to brains and bodies with lots of physical activity. Each glossy card has five to 12 easy-to-read bulleted prompts on one side and take one to five minutes each to execute.
“It is the first in its kind of essential classroom refreshments,” said Beauchamp, who’s witnessed firsthand how important it is for students to take “ mini-recesses, which teach life skills to manage one’s mood and stress levels for today’s and tomorrow’s learning and work space,” she said. “For students and teachers, Recessitate provides mental breaks from intensive brainwork and acts as a stress management tool.”
Indeed, stress, high stakes testing, too much homework, and a tremendous pressure for educators to do it all are just a few of the many issues that can make some school and class environments unhealthy and unproductive, explains Beauchamp.
“Where is their “Stop doing list?’ More and more has been added to their plate without taking things off,” she said.
Turning educators and students into “academic machines” is also because of “too much curriculum that is not connected with student or teacher life experiences, interests or passions,” said Beauchamp, who also blames “over-scheduling that compartmentalizes learning into subjects, timeframes where schedules run how teachers and students work together and an over focus on teaching material over student learning. Work comes before the social-emotional, whole person focus and enjoyment of teaching, working and learning together,” she said.
Still, Beauchamp remains positive, passionate and productive, and originally started Oranda as a medium to share with a greater audience the many ideas and resources she accumulated over her last 20 years as an educator predominantly in health and physical education.
She holds a MA in Organizational Leadership and multiple teaching credentials in several other subject areas. She’s a parent of two school aged children and spouse to a fellow educator.
“Oranda works to nourish positive, productive and playful learning environments by feeding teachers with the tools they need to engage, connect and grow with each other and their students,” said Beauchamp, who describes the brand as “smart, warm and playful.”
The name 'Oranda' was inspired by the proverb about teaching others to fish.
“Oranda is a common goldfish with a brainy-like mass on the top if its head that only thrives under the best conditions, just like us,” said Beauchamp.
In a nutshell, the mission of Oranda is to “uplift learners and elevate educators,” she explains. “I have a vision of every teacher and every student enjoying working and learning together everyday.”
So far, it seems to be working.
Teachers using Recessitate in Pacifica report increased student engagement, attention spans, time on task, focus, productivity and enjoyment of learning, as well as a decrease in unwanted behavior.
“I love Recessitate activities. The kids love them, too. They work so well,” says Ocean Shore Kindergarten teacher Lisa DeVry.
Fifth grade teacher Debra Lyttle at Sunset Ridge in Pacifica says that her “students enjoy the anticipation of finding out what card will be pulled, and love the movements and choosing and leading Recessitate activities,” which also get students in a frame for learning by using tools for all learners, including ADD, ADHD, Sensory Processing and other Response to Intervention needs.
“We have been using Recessitate with my kindergartner who shows signs of ADD to help her focus and engage with homework and any task at hand,” says Pacifica parent Victoria Gangi.
Recessitate also integrates physical activity into the classroom-learning environment, which helps activate the brain and improve on-task behavior during academic instruction time. Because classroom teachers have the potential to influence children’s healthy behaviors, says Beauchamp, Recessitate is the tool to help them do that by including short periods of physical activity into the learning environment.
From her experience, key components that need to be in place to make a school healthy also include “community based on norms that are taught and consistently expected and re-visited as needed around how people treat each other, how they treat themselves and how they resolve conflicts and make decisions,” she said. “Providing a voice for students and teachers in developing a community is also key.”
When her head is not in Oranda, Beauchamp works part-time at San Jose State University where she coordinates a grant for alternative routes into teaching, supervises student teachers, acts as regional director for Bay Area teacher intern programs, and facilitates a yearlong residency program. She’s also currently on the board of the California Teacher Corps and Playworks and on the side supports the Global Lives Project.
With Oranda, Beauchamp is just a few capital dollars away from creating a kit for teachers to start their own tutoring business to earn some outside income and foster their skills in meeting the needs of individual students. Recessitate for the home and office is also under construction, and services for parents to help them in their preschool, grade school and high school selection are in the works. In the near future, Beauchamp would also like to celebrate educational entrepreneurs, products and services by having their products and services highlighted on Oranda’s Web site.
Currently she is looking for a partner with a business development background and investors to help her take Oranda to the next level.
“It takes more energy to bring people up and is so easy to bring people down,” she said. “I welcome everyone's support to nourish positive, productive and playful learning environments by giving teachers the resources and tools they need to engage, connect and grow with each other and their students."
Join Ornada on www.facebook.com/orandaworks and purchase Recessitate for schools, teachers, and friends by going to the Oranda Web site. A portion of proceeds from Oranda purchases goes toward programs that support healthy schools.