Janesville51.2°

Stretching helps students learn at Lakeland School

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Mike Heine
October 18, 2007
— Ninety fingers stretched and wiggled, reaching for the spiders and ghosts hanging from the ceiling of the Lakeland School kindergarten classroom.

The youngsters weren’t trying to take down the Halloween decorations before the holiday. They were participating in a yoga-type exercise to begin their school day.


For about a month, the early childhood teachers and an occupational therapist at the school have been using yoga-style stretching to help students relax and learn.


Teacher Stephanie Hicks said it has made a difference with kindergarteners at Lakeland, a Walworth County school for children with disabilities.


“A lot of kids come in, and they are just bonkers in the morning,” Hicks said. “This settles them. It grounds them.


“Speech follows right after this. They are quieter at the table and more attentive. They get that movement out, and they’re ready to focus.”


Occupational therapist Rebecca Schaefer started leading the Tuesday- and Wednesday-morning sessions.


By doing positions such as “the mouse,” “the dog” and “the butterfly,” children learn how to relax, follow directions, participate appropriately in a group and increase their attention span, she said.


A yoga kit for kids includes pictures of the stretches and music selections. Of 25 stretches, the youngsters learn about 10 of the most basic, Schaefer said.


With help from teachers and aides, the kids reach for the sky, touch their toes, lean forward on their knees, stretch their arms and wiggle in all directions.


They are reminded to breathe deeply.


The children participating in yoga have a range of physical and cognitive disabilities, from autism to spina bifida, Hicks said.


The stretches and positions are something parents can do with the kids at home, too, Schaefer added.


“It’s things that they don’t incorporate enough in their day,” Hicks said. “A lot of kids are focused on slowing down. Their motors are running, and we can’t keep up, so it grounds them a little bit.”


The reaction from parents so far has been positive, Principal Greg Kostechka said.


“Eventually, it may carry over to more of the school if we see progress and benefits of it,” Kostechka said. “It’s teaching techniques that are carrying over not just to academics, but in other areas also. I hope (students) learn these techniques so they can learn academically.”



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