Rucker ES students jump-start new year through mindfulness and yoga

While many have entered the new year with resolutions to get healthier, a group of students at Rucker Elementary School are taking time each day to put their hands to their hearts and close their eyes. 

“Hands up, deep breath, stretch, and now let’s swing our bodies to the left and now the right,” HISD Social Worker Manager Nicole Batiste said. 

For the next few minutes, students are led through a series of deep breathing and movement exercises designed to help participants be more mindful of their emotions and responses to have better self-control and ultimately better self-esteem. 

The new Mindfulness and Yoga program that will be fully implemented next week at Rucker is an example of the kind of low-cost, but potentially high-impact intervention campuses could use to address behavioral issues and stress in the classroom. 

“This is an opportunity to enrich the lives of our students by teaching them techniques that will help them resolve conflicts with their peers, in the community and at home,” said Rucker Counselor Dalia Flores. “Not only do we want the techniques to easily translate to classroom peers and friends, but we also see this as a solution to help ease our students during the testing season.” 

In partnership with HISD’s Social and Emotional Learning department, Batiste, who leads the mindfulness routine, regularly visits Rucker to guide classes through breathing and movement exercises that are part of a larger initiative at Rucker to create a healthier school environment.  

“We wanted to create something that incorporated body movement yet was simple enough to learn and for adults to teach,” Batiste said. “Through this cost-effective program, we are introducing yoga positions and breathing techniques that can reduce anxiety and increase focus, especially during testing season where they might experience those feelings the most.” 

In September 2019, Rucker, along with Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk and Piney Point Elementary School, was recognized as one of the country’s healthiest schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.    

“I’m so happy to be part of the program because it helps me stay calm and relaxed,” Rucker fifth-grader Ruby Corona said. “Sometimes, when I’m taking a test, it can make me nervous, but now that I’ve learned about mindfulness, it has really helped ease those fears.”