AUSTIN (KXAN) — From the moment Ms. Briceno’s third-graders leave her classroom, a sense of calm begins to work its way through them.
The windchime they pass along the way paired with the fragrance of wildflowers help. However, it’s most likely their knowledge of where they’re headed, the dimly lit mindfulness room at Rodriguez Elementary.
Students practice rhythmic breathing, talking about what’s bothering them, and releasing their stress through body movements like wiggling their hands to the sky.
“It helps us calm down and it helps us be peaceful,” said third Grader Tayden Jackson.
“Peaceful” is a word eight-year-old Tayden Jackson picked up from his teacher Rosa Briceno.
“It makes me a lot more peaceful with them, looking at how they reacted, and just listening to them more, and not just listening to their voice but listening to their actions,” Briceno said.
Briceno has been using the mindfulness studio since it first opened three years ago. She said she benefits from the practice just as much as her students do.
“You’re trying to go deep, you’re trying to give them skills that they’re going to be able to carry through life,” Briceno said.
The idea came from James Butler, who first taught the technique to his AISD kindergartners nine years ago. He’s since been promoted to the district’s mindfulness specialist.
“It’s really about being present, being aware of your thoughts your feelings, your surroundings, and just really expressing compassion for yourself,” Butler said.
Seven other campuses have similar mindfulness rooms, though the one at Rodriguez is among the most used and longest-running.
The Rodriguez community fundraised to pay for what’s inside, mindfulness books, calming messages, and toys to help students relax.
The district said it’s currently studying the impact mindfulness has on discipline in the classroom, with the hope that it’ll lead to less referrals and suspensions.