Changing Channels

“My students don’t want to sit still.”

Often times when youth have experienced trauma, stillness activities can be scary and uncomfortable. I have often struggled with finding a strategy for relaxation that allows all students to actively participate. However, after my training with 1000 Petals, I have incorporated 5 Finger Breathing and Hand Tracing into Yoga Calm®’s Changing Channels Activity, and found great success!

At our training, we learned about scripted brain breaks. This relaxation allows students to find a place to go in their mind that makes them feel calm, happy, at ease. They are instructed to use all 5 senses as they imagine that perfect place. Students in our computer basics class took this to the next level! Here is a run down of what they did from our awesome Technology Guru, Mr. Paulsen.

Mindfulness in Technology Class

I introduced this project to my 6th graders to address the high energy. I needed a way to transform that energy into learning energy.

We began by tracing our hands using  Hand Tracing Breathing. We wanted to slow down, and focus. Everytime the student drew up, they breathed in and every time they traced down, they breathed out.

Our next step was to take a picture of our hand drawn hand and insert the image to Google Drawings. We looked at each finger as representing a sense. The task was to insert a phrase and image describing that sense. During this time, students were focused on how they can represent each sense in an image and short phrase.

Trauma Responsive  Relaxations

It can be helpful during scripted relaxations to have the students work out their script ahead of time, so when they go into the relaxation they aren’t feeling stressed  about finding the perfect spot. Having it scripted ahead of time can prevent negative thoughts. This is also a great launch pad for creative writing and imagination.

Yoga Calm®’s Changing Channels

This activity lends itself perfectly to the Yoga Calm® Activity, Changing Channels. The Changing Channel’s activity has students stay on a channel, or scene, for 30 seconds or so before changing the visualization. Students can share out their hand projects while the rest of the class visualizes right along. I recommend going through three students, allow 30 seconds to a minute for each. What a great way to weave in social emotional learning!

Have you tried Hand Tracing Breathing or Changing Channels? Have you incorporated technology into your rest and relaxation? Leave a comment!

Written By,

Travis Paulsen: Jordan Middle School Business and Technology Teacher

Chelsey Meyer: Jordan Middle School Counselor

Child’s Pose and Lockdown Drills

“Teachers, please secure the door to your classroom.”

The classroom teacher heads over to the lightswitch as she hears the announcement. Lights off. Blinds closed. With a finger over her lips she points to the corner of the room where all the students scurry and huddle together.

School safety is on everyone’s mind. From the Oval Office to the principal’s office, the topic unfortunately is trending. Lockdown drills are now commonplace mandates that serve as a cornerstone for safety protocols. But, what impact do these drills have on our children? Let’s look at it from a scientific perspective.

We  Cannot Reason With the Amygdala

We know it’s a drill.  A drill means practice. We are just practicing in case a dangerous person were to come into the school.  There isn’t really someone posing a threat to our safety, it is just the building secretary checking to make sure the teacher locked the door.

However, when that door handle rattles, students will undoubtedly react. Even though students know in their cognitive minds that lockdown drills are just practice, the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for survival, does not know. The protective part of the brain goes into action before our frontal lobe has a chance to explain the lack of threat. However much we prepare our children, we cannot reason with the amygdala.

Trauma Resides in the Nervous System

So what happens when in that moment when the door handle shakes? The amygdala fires and sends out an SOS.  In order to survive, our bodies go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Huddled together, holding their breath, students don’t have the option to fight or flee, so they are left with freeze as the only means of survival. Adrenaline and cortisol are frozen in the nervous system.

“Freeze” is Detrimental

Trauma counselors will tell us that the freeze response has the most detrimental long-term impact on the nervous system. When the amygdala is activated, it is crucial for the body discharges the influx of survival energy. When fight or flee are not options (as in the case of lockdown drills),  the nervous system is left with excess. Repeated activation of the amygdala without allowing for completion of the cycle will leave adverse effects on the mind, body, and heart.

Bringing Move Mindfully ™  into your Lockdown Drill

So, what can we do? Lockdown drills are our reality. The lights off, huddle and hide routine is now commonplace. However, integrating three Move Mindfully ™ strategies into your lockdown drill will mitigate some of the potentially negative lasting impacts.

Step 1: The Huddle

When students assume the huddle position, cue them into Child’s Pose. With head below the heart and a curved spine, this position naturally relaxes the body. Take long, deep breaths to activate the relaxation response. Another benefit to this pose is the elimination of the visual stimuli that can cause hyper-vigilance (i.e. waiting for the door handle to shake, sounds in the hallway). Blog Bonus- Download Child’s Pose from our Move Mindfully Card Deck for suggested language. Please note: We want to practice these skills when the body and mind are calm so that we can easily access them during high stress times, like lockdown drills.

child's pose lockdown drill

Step 2: Release

It is absolutely critical that students are given an opportunity to release after a lockdown drill. Our best option is to tap into the “flight” response and run a lap around the school. If that is not possible, shaking, jumping or tapping are viable options. The body uses these movements as a way to discharge the stress hormones released during the lockdown drill.

shaking release

Step 3: Re-Integrate

Finally, returning to a relaxed-activated state culminates the drill. Cue students into 2-3 Forward Folds, which helps the body tap into a calming response. To transition back to learning, use the breathing ball and take 10 belly breaths.

belly breathing

As long as lockdown drills are a reality for our schools, we can support our students with the science and practice of Mindful Movement. What have you tried during lockdown drills? Have you tried using child’s pose? Leave a comment.

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Happiness Recipe Rest

What makes you happy? Or maybe a better question, what keeps you engaged in the present moment?

I posed this question to my students. In a world of competing, demanding stimuli, the currency of attention goes a long way. Within the instructional framework, a calm, focused, happy state of mind is one that is also ready to learn.

We began by filling out the Happiness Recipe Worksheet from the Yoga Calm® curriculum. After all of the self-work we have been doing this year, most were able to answer the questions fairly easily.

They were also excited to take the worksheet home and interview a family member. I even challenged the students to predict possible answers. “Besides doing the laundry, I am not sure what other activities my mom enjoys” and “I don’t think my dad ever gets to be alone” were some of the responses. Do you think you could predict your child’s or partner’s answers?

Allowing Rest Time

After processing through this activity, I decide to integrate the responses into Rest. With the hurried energy of the school year, taking a few moments to stop and settle are essential for student (and teacher) well being.

legs on chair and listening to iPad

We have been using The Boat Ride as a scripted relaxation. (Here is the audio recorded by Lynea Gillen.)

My students love the imagery of floating in boat. Based on this script, I created a google doc. In a Mad Libs format, students were able to edit and insert their answers from the Happiness Recipe.

Integrating Technology

Although we seem to be bombarded with news about the detrimental effects of technology and brain development, I will argue that there is a place for technology to support mental health. My students have access to one-to-one on iPads. I have been waiting for the moment to integrate our lessons with this amazing technological tool.

To begin, students shared the document to an online digital portfolio and recorded their voices reading the script. Here is an audio sample. Now, students have a personalized rest story that is easily accessible.

It is important during rest that students are given choice for body position. Head on Desk and Child’s Pose are popular and both are found in our Move Mindfully Card Deck. Then, using the iPad, students can listen to their own voices, on headphones, visualizing happy moments. It’s like giving yourself a pep talk!

A student commented, “When I’m feeling anxious, I like hearing my voice and remembering all the things that bring me happiness.”

What do you use for rest? Have you tried personalization? Please leave a comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

Head on Desk

Mindful transitions are an important component of small group instruction.

For students and staff mindful transitions are critical for the success of an intervention. As an English as a Second Language Teacher, I teach many small groups throughout the day. The process of getting the students, walking down the hallway and settling into another classroom space can sometimes be a difficult transition… for the kids and myself!

This year I have learned about Move Mindfully® and I have started implementing some of the strategies. One that works well for me is child’s pose on the desk. I use the Head on Desk card found in the Move Mindfully Card Deck for cuing suggestions.

When students come into my classroom, they know before anything else, that they should sit at their spots and take one minute in head on desk. The blue poster in the Permission to Pause package also serves as a great visual for this routine.

Stack one fist on top of the other and then rest your forehead on your top fist. Another option is to lay head on flat hands. I wait here for one minute, taking 5-10 deep breaths. Their brains and bodies need this moment of rest.

Taking this moment to get centered and arrive in the space has been influential in creating positive transitions and immediate focus. Before cuing them out, I read aloud our objective. Right away, they are engaging in the content objective and using their visualization.

Teacher Self Care

I have found that this moment is not only beneficial for the students, but for myself as well! I used to use this minute to get my papers in order and make sure I had pencils on the table. However, I recently started participating with the students and noticed a profound effect. As a teacher, we are always running from one place to another. Taking time to slow down, stop and breathe has made ME a more focused and attentive teacher.

They say, if you don’t have a minute for mindfulness, take five. I think the same is true with running small groups. The time taken to settle in and transition with purposeful breath can make a huge impact. The Move Mindfully® Teachers Pay Teachers store also has great resources to get you started with these practices.

Have you used child’s pose as a transition? How do you help your students arrive to small group? Leave a comment!