Liz Mariani, a Burlington teacher, shares her mindfulness story about celebrating small gains with kindergarteners.
After undergoing two levels of training at the Center for Mindful Learning for implementing mindfulness into the school curriculum, I embarked on a journey of unknowns. I had never taught mindfulness, period, let alone mindfulness to Kindergarteners. My position at Burlington Kids at C.P. Smith Elementary School in Burlington, Vermont as the Lead After School Kindergarten teacher afforded a distinct opportunity to work repeatedly with the same group of children five days a week. Thankfully, included within the grandeur opportunity was the opportunity to mess up. I was free to simply make mistakes and so I took risks. This was thrilling.
Children are really here to teach us, as far as I’m concerned. These mindfulness activities were powered by the enormity of wonder and curiosity churning in each child’s eye. Mindfulness activities for these amazing Kindergarteners fit perfectly into other circle time activities. Activities sandwiching circle time activities included options for individual storytelling and exercises in gratitude.
I knew the very chances of teaching mindfulness based on a foreseen goal was simply, myopic. I couldn’t chart success if I was attempting to measure attention spans in minutes. Seriously, could I get a Kindergartener to sit for minutes at a time or even one minute straight? Probably not. I just wanted to lead the way, to clear a space, so that they, these bright children, could teach us and themselves their own way to be present. Time was never goal.
With each mindfulness activity, I stressed the importance of posture and breath. Sometimes we’d work on our breath separately before and after the sitting portion by encouraging children to stand and lift their arms to a T inhaling and drop their arms to their sides slowly exhaling. I found that showing them the power they had to control the pace of their individual breaths worked. In addition, to loosen up their bodies, we’d practice a modified Uttanasana pose by pretending we were actually weeping willow trees blowing in the wind. Children have vivid imaginations. This is great news when teaching mindfulness.
I encourage all after school programs to provide opportunities for mindfulness exercises. I found these activities to be especially useful in providing alternatives to the restless energy fueling cabin fever during the winter months. It’s a way to bring their minds outdoors and turn their breath into the wind. These young children looked forward to their daily mindfulness activities. They expected it and talked about it. Many times, after a brief sitting session, I’d ask students, “Do you feel different? Do you feel better?” Happy, affirmative nods would domino through the circle.
*I’d like thank Dacia Ostlund, Director of Burlington Kids at C.P. Smith for the openness in embarking on this journey and the CML for training and support.