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Bringing inner calm to Vermont classrooms - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Bringing inner calm to Vermont classrooms

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BURLINGTON, Vt. - Nestled in a diverse neighborhood of Burlington's Old North End is a school with a unique mission. The Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes integrates the big ideas of economic, social and environmental sustainability into everyday elementary school activities. That includes bringing yoga into the classroom.

"It helps with everything from creating an environment that's a little more learning ready, helps give kids tools to self-regulate, to be a little more quiet, calmer," Susan Cline Lucey said.

Cline Lucey is a yoga instructor, but she's also a mom with two kids at the Academy. A Dover, New Hampshire, company called Yoga 4 Classrooms trained her how to teach teachers to incorporate nearly 70 yoga and mindfulness-based practices into their curriculum. The Sustainability Academy is the first school in the state to try out the program.

Principal Brian Williams says the yearlong experiment was a success. And it's helped put the school in the national spotlight. The Sustainability Academy was recently named an Ashoka Changemaker school, joining only 40 others in the country recognized for innovative and influential endeavors.

"The beauty of the Yoga 4 Classrooms program is that we're not expecting teachers to pause and say, 'OK, it's yoga time; let's take 30 minutes and do yoga.' Yoga for Classrooms is little snippets of yoga," Cline Lucey explained.

Teachers use the kid-friendly poses and breathing exercises as quick transitions between classroom activities or to focus kids after lunch or outdoor play.

"When you like ah, ah, ah and you let all the bad stuff out and pick up good stuff," one student said.

Reporter Jennifer Reading: Do you think this is something that any school can incorporate or does it have to be a certain kind of school?

Susan Cline Lucey: Oh, any school. Any school, absolutely.

The program cost the school $4,000. The price tag covered an all-day training for staff and paid for Cline Lucey to spend several hours with each pre-K to fifth-grade class.

"It's a good investment in the future, really teaching our kids something that's going to last their whole life," said Amy Lachance, a second- and third-grade teacher. "The drawback is that it takes time. You have to practice. You have to remember to use it."

Lachance says it's brought an inner calm to her classroom when her second- and third-graders need it most.

"It feels really good to get a nice stretch in the morning after you've been sitting around doing morning work or reading," a student said.

"I think you just see the effects so quickly," Cline Lucey said. "These kids deal with a lot of stress in their lives and as adults we know some tools to deal with the stress."

"I thought that it was incredibly forward-thinking," Maleka Clarke said.

Parents like Maleka Clarke are seeing the positive outcomes both in school and at home.

"I feel that nowadays everything is very go, go, go and we don't take time to reflect. Whether we like it or not, kids learn that. So having purposeful, reflective, slow mindful thought in the school is incredibly valuable especially at this young age," Clarke said.

"It just really makes me relaxed and calm and makes me feel good," said Adi Leddy, a third-grader.

A feel-good practice helping to shape young minds one pose at a time.

For more information on Yoga 4 Classrooms at the Sustainability Academy click here.

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