Making Mindfulness work for your Art Studio

If you’re like me, your students come to art class right after lunch, or rushing in from recess, or perhaps you’re the last class of the day before dismissal. It’s unrealistic to expect all learners to be able to instantly switch gears and be open, focused and ready to take risks and be creative.

In comes mindfulness like a gentle breeze. Since offering independent and group mindfulness choices, my students have been more easily accessing the lessons presented, smoothly rolling with unexpected mistakes, and reflecting with great insight about their work.

Here are some simple ways to infuse elements of mindfulness in your program without taking too much time away from your lessons:

1. Breathing exercises
Demonstrating controlled breathing is an incredibly quick way to calm and center a large group of students. I’ve found a couple of Gifs that are helpful in leading this exercise. You can, of course, simply count to five slowly for each inhale and exhale:

This Gif shows a gentle expanding and contracting that is helpful to illustrate the air filling and leaving the lungs.

Breathing Recalibration Station is a clock created by Michael Pederson that tells time in breaths rather than seconds.

2. Guided meditation
If you do a quick search, there are many sites like this one that share brief meditation scripts which address everything from anxiety, self-doubt, stress, and even taking a virtual vacation. If you have a sound system, you can play short guided relaxation scripts from Calm.com, which also have accompanying soundscapes and visuals, like the one pictured above. My fourth graders absolutely love this one, and a few have shared that they like to use it before beginning their homework after school each day!

3. Relaxation or Sensory station
Create a cozy spot in which students who are overwhelmed might take a pause from their work. I use a two-minute sand timer to keep kids on task. In my “Zen Station” I have a Buddha Board for painting with water, silly putty, sensory toys for stretching cramped hands, and a squishy pillow to rest their heads. For those students who have too much energy for detailed work, I have the “Art Gym” where they can use small resistance bands, balls, and finger trainers to exercise their hands and get deep pressure feedback.

5. Expressive opportunities
Simply asking students to check in about how they are feeling, or addressing the body language as they enter your room can be powerful. If you notice a rambunctious group, you can tell them “I see you have a lot of energy, let’s all do 30 jumping jacks before starting class today” or invite students to pass a post-it note to you upon entering the room to tell you how they are feeling in a discreet way.

6. Movement
If you have the space, a Sun Salutation is a quick way to create a yoga tradition in your classroom that centers the group and focuses energy.

7. Music to influence Mood
Music can be integral in setting the tone in your space. Consider what that tone is carefully, and have a few playlists on hand if you need to calm your room, amp up energy, or cheer up a cranky classroom. I have my favorites saved in Spotify and Google Play music for easy access.

How do you create mindful moments for your students?