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Westside Elementary teaches students mindfulness to focus in class

Westside Elementary teaches students mindfulness to focus in class

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. - A local school is changing the way students think and behave in the classroom. The new strategy is part of what's called "social and emotional" learning.  It's part of a nationwide trend focused on mindfulness.

Students at Westside Elementary in Sun Prairie start their day with a different kind of morning bell. Once students hear the bell three times, the room turns completely silent.  It's a morning in mindfulness, during which students take five minutes to meditate at the beginning of their day.

"We have had such a wonderful turnaround with the feeling of our building, with the culture of our building. It just seems calmer and our students are really engaged in learning," Nikki Burke, Westside Elementary Principal, said.

It's a calmness that Elizabeth Lord continues throughout the day, devoting five minutes to mindfulness exercises in her fifth grade classroom.

"I feel like I can do a lot more with them, they are so available to receive information and they are so available to learn, that we can do more in the classroom that I wasn't able to do before," Lord said.

There's even a room for students who need a break from class or are having behavior problems. Instead of disciplining students, teachers stress positive expectations. Students use guided meditations as a way to calm their minds and self-regulate. Teachers and staff said since they have implemented mindfulness practices in the school this year, classroom discipline has decreased by 80 percent.

"Mindfulness helps them transition from an emotion that is not helpful for learning to something (like) 'Okay, I can breathe through this, accept it and move on,'" she said.

Burke said students are less stressed, more focused and ready to learn in the classroom.

A majority of teachers and staff participated in mindfulness classes after school this year for training. 

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