Three Rivers focuses on mindfulness, movement & brain breaks

The Three Rivers School District wellness team is bringing mindfulness, physical activity, and brain breaks to the classroom to help students and teachers THRIVE! Here’s a look at some of the things they’re doing:

Hype Rally on state testing day

The teenage brain isn’t quite awake first thing in the morning, but that’s when sophomores are expected to be at their best on state testing day. So Taylor High School social studies teacher Caitlin Rudisell organized a Hype Rally, the academic equivalent of a pep rally before a football game. Students came to school early for healthy snacks, fun physical activity and cheers, and entertainment by teachers dressed up in costumes. All of this was meant to wake up their brains for the test. “I think that students responded positively to it,” Caitlin said. “They went into testing more confident, a bit more relaxed and ready to show what they knew.”

man dressed up like George Washington with megaphone talking to students
Teacher Dan Perlman gets students primed for state testing.
Body moving = brain grooving

Dan Perlman also teaches social studies at Taylor. One of his favorite sayings is ‘if your body’s moving, your brain is grooving” – and he can tell you the neuroscience to back it up. So at the beginning of every class, his students do some type of physical activity. “I’ve got to get their heart rate up for 60 seconds to kick in the hippocampus, which is the learning center of the brain,” he said. Dan keeps students moving with activities like Walk & Talk (pictured at the top of this story), where they teach each other while walking up and down the stairs. When students are nodding off after lunch or just need to re-focus, they’re free to move to one of four standing desks. The regular desks even have DIY foot swings (pictured).

Brain Breaks

Caitlin gives stressed out students a break with mindfulness exercises like visualizations. “The kids’ favorite seemed to be lightbulb brain, where they envisioned actually turning their brain down like you would dim a lightbulb, and just relax,” she said. Other activities include a feelings inventory and journaling. Students who struggle with test anxiety learn breathing techniques.

Test Under Duress

Throughout the year, Dan gives students sample state tests under a variety of stressful conditions. “My goal is to make it harder on them for Test Under Duress than it would be to take the AIR [state] test,” he said. Dan has come up with lots of ways to put students under duress, like playing annoying sounds (an air raid siren or noisy city traffic), making them answer questions while walking backwards, or requiring them to write with their non-writing hand. Students figure out ways to handle the pressure. For example, one student said tapping his foot helped him focus on the test and block out the noise.

Want to learn more?
Three Rivers wellness team members will be speaking at the High AIMS Summer Institute 2019, August 1-2 at Fairfield High School:

  • Caitlin Rudisell & Dan Perlman will teach Student Engagement and Movement in Your Classroom
  • Gretchen Bloomstrom will teach The Mindful Child: It Starts with Us

For more information:

Three Rivers is a WeTHRIVE! school district. Check out our other stories featuring the district: