Ms. Wolken’s fifth grade students sat at their desks, many with their eyes closed, holding one hand on their belly and the other on their heart. Their task was to focus their attention on their breath for a full sixty seconds. Jessica Knopke stood at the front of the room and did the breathing exercise along with them.
“How does this make you feel?” Ms. Knopke asked the children after a minute was up.
“Deep breaths that we send all the way down to our belly send a signal to our brain that everything is okay,” said Ms. Knopke. “This can help us feel calm and peaceful at times when we are experiencing big emotions.”
“Do you want to see how breath can also wake you up?” she asked.
Ms. Knopke led them in three other breathing techniques that involved quick movements, and sharp inhales and exhales: Bunny Breath, Lion's Breath, and Windmill.
The energy level in the room lifted. Each student seemed more alert and ready for learning.
Flash-forward three weeks. "Students are using the techniques they learned with Ms. Knopke," reports Ms. Wolken. "We have also used the breathing methods after lunch in order to center ourselves before moving on with the day."