Students focus on their breathing, stretch out their arms and balance on one leg with the lights dimmed in Sarah Singleton’s first grade classroom at Sky Oaks Elementary School in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191.
These 6- and 7-year-olds are learning techniques that will benefit them now and in the future.
Their school, along with Edward Neill and Vista View elementaries, is using a curriculum called Move Mindfully® to help students develop self regulation skills, manage strong emotions and build physical and emotional strength. It’s a national program developed for classroom use by a school counselor.
Every classroom at Sky Oaks is conducting a five-week classroom residency, with a certified instructor leading students through the different activities. Using simple movement, the program teaches breathing techniques and mindfulness exercises to improve focus, learning readiness, behavior skills, physical health and emotional stability for students.
Staff at Sky Oaks are also participating in eight hours of professional development, to ensure they can continue the work after the residencies end. Singleton and fellow Sky Oaks teacher Katy Prugh-Ploehn will even become certified this fall to lead residences.
“It is super exciting to see even after only two sessions, my first grade students are working to breathe and move their bodies to regulate themselves,” Singleton said. “It pairs beautifully with the socio-emotional learning in our new literacy curriculum, as well as our belief that this learning is the missing piece for our students.”
At Vista View, Principal Jeff Nepsund said the approach works well with the school’s work to build a strong, positive learning community.
“We incorporate some strategies in our Morning Meetings in classrooms to teach students ways to self-regulate and use calming strategies, which ties in nicely with our PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) program,” he said.
Funding for Move Mindfully is provided through a wellness grant from Dakota County.
Pictured: Stephanie Esser, a trainer for the Move Mindfully® curriculum, works with first grade students in Sarah Singleton's class at Sky Oaks Elementary.