Equipping Preschool Teachers to Incorporate Yoga & Creative Movement in Early Childhood Education
I want to provide preschool teachers (and parents) of young children with the training, ideas and resources they need to bring movement into the classroom and home, throughout the day, by adding yoga, creative movement and breath into the existing curriculum. Despite research showing movement to be critical for developing minds, budgets for PE and recess are being cut across the USA, and students are expected to sit for long periods of time throughout the school day--and often spend a lot of time at home in front of a screen. As a current preschool yoga teacher, I see the benefits firsthand of giving young children tools to become autonomous, creative and confident in their movements, and I want to make this possible for all preschools.
This would work by creating basic curriculum supplements that incorporate movement games, breath, yoga poses, and relaxation into the school day. The supplements could be in the form of small books, decks of cards, posters, manuals for teachers, video clips, etc. As I have worked with many preschool teachers working in diverse educational systems with varying resources and support, I know that all of them have been appreciative of the response from their students. When teaching in preschools, I've heard many times, "I wish you could come every day!" which is why I want to empower the teachers themselves to be able to use the power of movement, breath, relaxation activities and yoga poses in a way that fits well with their daily routines and teaching styles.
Relaxing in Child's Pose after Preschool Yoga in Taipei, Taiwan
Warming up in Central Park, NYC
Downward Dogs in Central Park, NYC
Starting class with toe-wiggles, kindergarten classroom, Marshalltown, Iowa
Here are some links to research about yoga for children/in schools:
Movement and Brain Development (See guidelines at the end)
"A Necessary Catalyst: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline with Yoga"
"Yoga and Children's Mental Health"
"Namaste. Now Nap Time." (WSJ)
Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?
Currently, I live in Brooklyn, where this year Universal Preschool went into effect across the city. There are many new preschool classes that have started up this year to accommodate the numbers of students in community centers, church basements, and other non-traditional spaces. I believe that public preschools such as these are extremely underfunded and under-resourced, and that teachers and students in lower-income neighborhoods would benefit most from this idea. However, I have also taught preschool yoga in Taiwan, rural Midwestern schools and Chicago, and know from my experience that this is a global commonality. As we move into densely populated areas with high income inequality and fewer green spaces, and as schools' focus turns to assessment and testing through memorization and parents turn to iPads, smartphones and computers to entertain children at home, children become more and more sedentary. I believe that the natural state of a child is to be in motion, and that yoga for children in school is the best way to involve kids in creative, non-competitive, self-esteem-enhancing movement that they can build lifelong habits around. Yoga in schools has been shown to help with attention problems, decrease aggression, increase alertness and focus, and self-regulation. As so much of the brain develops before age 5, Early Childhood is the best time to begin practicing creative movement, yoga and dance, sparking in children a mind-body connection, a love of movement, and an understanding of one's own physical capabilities. As it is expensive for many schools to bring in outside children's yoga instructors, I think that our best option is to provide resources and support to the teachers themselves.
How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?
I currently work with a non-profit that brings yoga and dance teachers into public schools, so I have access to many teachers around NYC. I think I could create a brief survey about their experiences with having their students do yoga in the classroom (with our outside teachers). I would like to know if they would be interested in having tools, resources and training to be able to involve yoga and creative movement throughout the week when they feel it would benefit their students--not just their weekly scheduled half-hour class. I am curious to know whether they would welcome and utilize those resources and materials, and how confident they would feel incorporating the ideas into their curriculums.
What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?
While I have developed extensive movement curriculum that parallels a preschooler's year of study, it is unpublished as of now. I would need the funds to produce those prototypes (booklets for kids, manuals for teachers, activity cards, perhaps some video, etc).
I might need someone more familiar with preschool curriculum and classroom time budgeting regulations (in the USA anyway) to advise me.
I would like translators to help with making the materials available in other languages.
Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?
Yes. I am ready and interested in testing this idea and making it real in my community.