Horace Mann Elementary Special Education Teacher Lauren Stahlman showing off some of her yoga students. (Photo provided.)

Horace Mann Elementary Special Education Teacher Lauren Stahlman has been teaching yoga on Mondays. With about seven classes each week, each class should get a chance to experience the class about twice a month.

“December was the first month we started the curriculum,” Stahlman said. “So far, all classes at Horace Mann in grades 1-4 have participated at least once.”

According to Stahlman, the Project AWARE grant bought her training, the student curriculum, yoga mats and storage.

“I completed the Teaching Children's Yoga course through YogaEd this summer, and received my certification to teach children's yoga,” Stahlman said. “The curriculum supports brain-based learning through movement, play, emotion, and social learning.”

According to Yoga Ed., their goals are sustainably improving the health and wellness of children, teens, and adults. Studies conducted by Harvard, Tulane, and California State University of Fullerton have found the programs improve physical, mental, emotional, and social health for all ages.

“Yoga increases learning by helping build neuroplasticity - the ability to adapt as a result of an experience,” Stahlman explained. “Yoga can increase readiness to learn and attention, while decreasing stress by sending oxygen-rich blood to the brain. 

According to Communication Pathologist Dr. Caroline Leaf, PhD, the brain is neuroplastic, which means it can change. Toxic stress changes the brain, flooding it with an unhealthy imbalance of neurochemicals like cortisol, impacting both mental and physical health.

Every day, new neurons are born in the brain and are ready to be designed into new neural networks. The more a person thinks and learns, the more neural networks build and the healthier the brain gets, according to Leaf.

“We are hoping that by implementing this curriculum in our school, we will see increased academic performance, increased self-awareness and self-management, and increased pro-social behaviors,” Stahlman shared.

According to Stahlman, data from assessments and discipline referrals to the office will be used to determine if goals are being met.

“It has been such a joy for me to have this opportunity to teach and interact with our amazing students,” Stahlman added. “Students and teachers alike are loving the program so far.”

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