Join me on the carpet
After the eggs have been eaten, the milk has been drunk, and the teeth have been brushed the school day begins. The lead teacher signifies the day is beginning by standing on the front carpet while playing relaxing quiet music. The children join her at the carpet as she beings to do simple yoga movements. As she progresses through the movements more and more children make their way to the carpet until the entire class is engulfed in tree poses, touching their toes, rolling their neck, ,mountain poses, and channeling their inner yogi.
After the teacher is done leading the yoga movements she takes a seat in her chair as the children sit on the carpet. She grabs a Hoberman Sphere ( aka that really fun toy you had as a kid that gets big then shrinks back down) and begins a breathing exercise. As the ball gets larger the students smell the flowers (deep inhale), and it condenses back down they blow out the candles (deep exhale). The students will typically be led through about 4 deep breaths with this technique, before she moves on to beginning name recognition and center time.
Take a deep breath with a hoberman sphere for kids
Are we just smelling flowers and blowing out candles, or can it be something more?
While doing the yoga poses alongside 17 three and four year olds and sitting criss cross applesauce on the carpet smelling flowers and blowing out candles (yes I actually was saying that in my head as I was doing that) I found myself relaxing and my mind beginning to clear for the day ahead.
I noticed how almost all of the children after the mindful activities were sitting on the carpet attentively and a sense of calmness and readiness filled the room. This left me speechless (and still does every time I see it). The idea of setting students up with strategies on how to calm their bodies, prepare for the day, and bring self awareness (whether it be consciously of unconsciously) all contributing to academic and personal success intrigued me. Can these small practices done each day do more for students than just calming their body?
What The Experts Say
After digging around in research (by digging I mean frantically typing away in online databases) I found out that my suspicions were right!
In a “2008 U.S analysis of roughly 300 studies involving more than 300,000 students in elementary and middle school found that students who received social and emotional course (including mindful breathing exercises) scored 11 to 17 percentage points higher on achievement tests than peers who did not take part in any courses” (Cloutier, 2011).
Through doing these mindfulness activities each day students were able to better manage stress, time, and quality of sleep which all contributed to the rise in academic success over time (Cloutier, 2011).
Where do we go from here?
Step 1: Buy the Hoberman Sphere ASAP and keep it in a storage box until I get my very own classroom
Step 2: Buy yoga cards to also keep in a storage box until I get my very own classroom
Step 3: Anxiously wait until I get my very own classroom!
In all seriousness the first step I take from this initial observation and research is to implement both the yoga movements and breathing exercises into my morning meetings. Even if the results just showed that this benefits students socio emotional skills, it would still be something I want to implement in my classroom. In todays day and age of doing doing doing all day long, it is the least we can do to supply our students with strategies to calm their minds and bodies.
I do still want to dig for more research on more ways to implement mindfulness into the classroom. I would also like to find more information on the benefits of these activities for students with specific disabilities. Stay tuned!
Cloutier, S. E. (2011). Mindful Breathing in the Classroom to Increase Academic Scores. Teaching Innovation Projects, 1(1). Retrieved from https://ojs.lib.uwo.ca/index.php/tips/article/view/3534
Hoberman breathing sphere. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnNATiWYyx0