“I am present in this room right now. My intention is to focus.”
Legs crossed and palms to the sky, a group of six third-grade students repeated this mantra one by one. In a dim-lit classroom at Kimberly Elementary School, Panthers Yoga had begun.
“We’ve had challenges with behavior and emotional outbursts that were causing disruptions in in-class instruction,” said Early Intervention Program (EIP) teacher Stephanie Bagley, who is assigned to third grade. “I wanted a holistic solution.”
So, Bagley applied for and was awarded a $500 Federation of Public Service Employees grant to empower students through yoga, meditation and social-emotional learning. Bagley leads 45-minute yoga sessions three days a week.
The pilot program began Feb. 3 and will run through the end of the school year. One way in which Bagley will measure success is by noting changes in the amount of behavioral referrals for student participants since joining Panthers Yoga.
Students must choose to join the yoga session and dedicate at least a month to the process. Reassessments are done each month to check-in on student progress and their willingness to continue.
“This program is not punitive. It’s also not an incentive. It’s about discipline,” Bagley said. But not in the traditional sense. “True discipline also means to be focused and dedicated to a task. This teaches them to be in the now, in the present.”
On Feb. 13, the yoga session included meditation, stretching and a read-a-loud of “The Mindful Dragon” by Steve Herman. Students shared things that keep them calm, including pets, teachers and parents.
Bagley has been practicing yoga for nearly 20 years. A former Atlanta Public Schools teacher from 2001 to 2010, she rejoined APS as an EIP teacher in July 2018.
Panthers Yoga is a “compilation of my growth as an educator over the years,” Bagley said. “I thought, ‘What can I do differently?’ I wanted to bring something new and useful for my kids, especially in the Therrell Cluster. Our SEL initiative is so awesome. This new vision for the District with Dr. Carstarphen lends a space for receptivity for this work.”
Interested in starting yoga at your school? Email Stephanie Bagley at firstname.lastname@example.org for insight.
Interested in applying for a grant to fund your SEL idea? Grant opportunities are available through the Social Emotional Learning Innovation Fund. Learn more and apply here.