“…the majority were better equipped to take responsibility for their behavior.”
Article by Cherry Sanford
As an assistant in the Wellness Through Movement Program at Kohala Elementary this spring, I had the opportunity to witness evidence of progress in the children’s physical and emotional health and well being. While engaged in a variety of fun and enlivening movements, I observed children in the process of learning to listen to their own bodies and emotions.
After many years of teaching experience, I can easily see that elementary aged children become good at responding to external cues. Their behavior is continually guided and directed by a series of rules, set by teachers or administrators. While rules and guidelines for behavior provide a necessary structure of safety and protection, children often do not have the opportunity to become practiced in the process of self examination and inquiry.
What I noticed about The Wellness Through Movement Program is that it taught children to ask questions about themselves, their bodies and the world around them. It taught them to observe what they experienced with their body-sense and to be curious about what they discovered. Finally, it gave them strategies they could use in their daily life that would enhance physical activity or help with challenging emotional situations.
I observed children in the program learn to ask questions pertaining to their body such as “Am I thirsty?” “Do I need water?” “How is my body responding differently now than it did at the beginning of the class?” After prompting by the instructor, they also asked questions about their emotions such as “What am I feeling right now?” “Am I upset?” What do I need?” Once the “home breath” was introduced, they began to ask, “How would the home breath help this situation?” “Am I ‘in home’ right now?”
In this way, children began to practice an internal process from their body sense to assist and direct their choices. Though it seemed awkward and foreign to them at first, they started to talk about ways to use it, such as to enhance performance at swim practice or to help solve a conflict with a sibling at home. Because the children began to see the connection between their choices and the consequences produced by their actions, the majority were better equipped to take responsibility for their behavior. A kindergartener in the program, for example, initially did not follow directions or respond verbally to the instructor or assistants. By the end of the program, he was able to pay attention and follow directions 75% of the time and was answering questions in complete sentences. The fourth and fifth graders gained skills to problem solve among themselves when disagreements arose.
In my role as an assistant, it was exciting to watch children develop skills that would enhance their physical and emotional well being for a lifetime!
Commentary from Retired Elementary Teacher of 25 years (15 full time)