Pinwheel Breath

What do you do when a student is stuck in a feeling of anxiety or anger?

The best thing you can do in this situation, is provide a strategy to regulate breathing and oxygenate the body. I always like to introduce pinwheel breath early in the school year. The pinwheel serves as a incentivizing tool. Watching the colors go around and around will memorize almost every user. The “toy” also makes this breath accessible because it seems a bit more lighthearted.

The Yoga Calm® Curriculum describes pinwheel breathing as a focus on the long steady exhale. It is a releasing breath that helps regulate the nervous system and calm anxieties. The pinwheel serves as a focal point, which increases focus and can be effective when used before testing or other activities that require intense concentration.

From a science perspective, you can visually experience the transfer of your energy (breath) to create motion energy (pinwheel). No breath, no energy. This idea integrates fabulously into science and engineering standards.

Here are some tips for integrating Pinwheel Breath into your science objectives.

1. Building Background

A great place to start is by building background about wind energy. Students wrestled with the real-world pros and cons that face our political and industrial leaders.

Next, I shared a real world example and read aloud the inspirational story of William Kamkwamba. William engineered a windmill to save his African village. See his Ted Talk  and read more about his biography. The picture book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is a great read aloud for all ages.

Reading a Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

2. Field Trips

If possible, take students outside to experience wind power first hand! We visited our local nature center to observe the electricity turbine and windmill water pump. We then went inside the schoolhouse and built circuits to power turbine models. How is wind energy utilized in your neighborhood?

Students visit wind turbine     Students participate in a wind experiment

3. Engineering

Once back in the classroom, have students use this Pinwheel Template to create their own pinwheel. Better yet, provide an assortment of supplies and allow open ended inquiry. Students can apply their knowledge to engineer a device that gains motion energy from wind energy

Students use STEM standards to create pinwheels







Students test the movement of a pinwheel      Students use classroom supplies to build a pinwheel







Finally, it all comes back to the social emotional work we do during mindful movement. Students are now invested into the pinwheel as a tool. They understand the importance of their breath. They have a strategy when the anger or anxiety bubbles back to the surface.

Boy relaxes by blowing a pinwheel









Have you tried pinwheel breathing? Leave a comment with what you have tried!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

13 replies
  1. Tanya Rae-Schmidt
    Tanya Rae-Schmidt says:

    I have mini pinwheels for the students. I think I will introduce them after reading the book example. Thank you for the idea!!

  2. Evette Farley
    Evette Farley says:

    I love doing pinwheel breathing with the kids at school. They usually love to keep the little pinwheel to help them with transitions between classes.

  3. Amy
    Amy says:

    Thank you for the great reminder about pinwheels. We were reminded of the great way to use them for breathing during workshop week in August, but my brain has since been flooded with other things. I am going to try to make them with my class!! I appreciate the ideas!

  4. Sheryl Kasella
    Sheryl Kasella says:

    Nice job making all the real world connections. I like how you connected the book with our students’ real world around them by taking them to Dodge. Great to tie in the energy standards.


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