Students at the Sandhills School experience the power of yoga for learning

Updated: Oct. 4, 2019 at 6:36 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Many of us take the ability to read for granted.

Because for those with dyslexia or another learning disorder, the struggle to read can be frustrating and create chaos in the classroom.

Dyslexia is more common than you might think. It affects one in 10 people and many go undiagnosed. Friday was recognized as World Dyslexia Day, part of the greater Dyslexia Awareness Month in October. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that can affect someone's ability to read. It disrupts the part of the brain that processes language. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 50% of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also have a learning disorder like dyslexia.

The Sandhills School in Columbia is flipping the script and the entire learning environment. The school is reimagining learning through the power of sporadic movement during the day. Rather than cutting recess and making kids sit and try harder, they are incorporating specific movement to help them focus and learn.

“Sandhills has been around for over 45 years and we were created specifically for kids with dyslexia and ADHD,” said Erika Senneseth, the Head of Sandhills School.

It’s a college preparatory school with just around 100 kids total who attend. Senneseth said when one of her teachers, Hannah Buckner, approached her with a personal passion for yoga and had the idea to try it with kids, she was all for it.

“Movement is so important. A lot of people forget that. They think, ‘Something is wrong with me. I need to go to the doctor.’ No, you gotta try moving first,” said Buckner.

Buckner is a certified yoga instructor and said she has noticed an incredible difference both inside and outside the classroom. They also do a special first period of movement for the high schoolers as well, getting the blood pumping first thing in the morning in the school’s gym.

The young fourth- and fifth-graders WIS spoke to said the yoga has an impact on not just their physical health.

“After I come back from yoga in class, I feel relaxed and pay attention a lot better,” said one student named Eloise.

And they’ve learned some valuable life lessons along the way.

“You don’t always just have to use your breaths in yoga class,” said another student named Mae. “You can use them anywhere. When you’re outside, when you’re mad, it calms you.”

But at the end of the day, the proof is in the translation from the mat to the classroom.

“If there was a really hard math problem and you’re getting frustrated and you can’t figure it out or anything, it’s nice to just breathe in,” said another student named Asher.

What started as an experiment has now become a ritual part of the day at Sandhills School.

“It always blows my mind every time,” Buckner said. “I’ve taught these kids for a while now and I can just see them all so relaxed and grounded and happy.”

Sandhills School is one of eight Orton-Gillingham approach schools, which is a research-based method that works with kids in small groups to overcome reading difficulties like dyslexia.

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