Third grade teacher uses mindfulness, yoga in class to benefit students

As teachers are reflecting back on the success of the school year, a classroom in West Saint Paul is crediting a program that is quickly expanding across the metro.

At Garlough Elementary in West St. Paul, third grade teacher Stephanie Kennelly says yoga, breathing, and being mindful of one another are just a few of the key elements that are helping her students find stress relief, focus, and calm.

“Especially after recess when kids are wound up, before tests we’ll do the focusing routine,” said Kennelly.

Kathy Flaminio started a company called one 1000 Petals 10 years ago after two decades as a social worker with Minneapolis Public Schools. Since then, she has helped train more than 20,000 educators and service providers across the country. Flaminio says five of the largest school districts in the state are in some way integrating ways to connect the mind and body.

“I know test scores are a piece of it and it’s a big piece in education, but it’s like the social, emotional, and physical elements are just as important as the academic,” said Flaminio. “When I started integrating that  movement into my work, within six weeks we saw changes we hadn’t seen in 10 years.”

Many students are using what they've learned at home as well including techniques in the relaxation station, a quiet corner in Kennelly’s classroom where kids can find their own peace of mind at any time.

“I do not think I sent one student to the office this year because of that,” said Kennelly.

Next year, more Yoga Calm elements will be expanded into the entire Garlough Elementary and the district is considering further expansion. As they reflect on the school year, it’s hard to tell who gets the most out of the relaxing rituals - Mrs. Kennelly or her students.

“I like that we are all like jiggly in the beginning, but then we all get calmed down, and the room just feels nice," said one student.

"I feel like I can move forward with greater patience and clarity when I take that time for myself," said Kennelly.

To read Kennelly’s blog about applying these techniques to the classroom or at home, click here.