The headmaster of the Phoenix, Ariz., campus of the K-12 StarShine Academy says HeartMath has been a hit with many of the school’s 105 students and has helped at all grade levels.
“The kindergartners through second-graders stop me on campus wherever they see me, asking ‘When is Mr. BearHeart coming back?’ ” Headmaster Joan Sarin said.
Mr. BearHeart is the name they’ve given to HeartMath's Heart Bear, a puppet that is a key part of the Early HeartSmarts® Program for ages 3-6.
Sarin functions as the principal at the main campus, ensuring that education standards are met and the school functions smoothly, and she deals with serious student behavior problems. The methods and tools of Early HeartSmarts and other HeartMath programs used at StarShine are designed to help teachers and administrators achieve their educational goals.
HeartMath in StarShine’s Elementary Grades
“The teachers are thrilled to find that the Heart Pillow works wonders for upset children!” Sarin said “And in the kindergarten, during rest time, the teacher starts them out with the Shift and Shine™ Technique when they lie on their mats.” The Heart Pillow is a fluffy red pillow with a blue hand that invites children to use it when they are feeling upset, either by holding or sitting on it while practicing one of the HeartMath’s emotion self-regulation techniques for children such as Shift and Shine.
Helping children recognize, understand and learn to manage their emotions and behavior is the central focus of Early HeartSmarts, which Starshine’s younger children have embraced.
“The elementary classes are very excited about the program and are very animated when we talk about feelings,” Sarin said. “We are now on discussions of noticing what their inner self-talk says when they are feeling upset. This particular method is going to help a few kids who are oversensitive quite a bit. In fact, one of those kids has been waiting for us to start the program, and during the first class, situated himself with a large note card for taking notes.”
Another tool the older elementary-level students are using in conjunction with Early HeartSmarts, and which is used with other HeartMath interactive learning programs is the emWave® Pro for Mac and PC. The emWave helps children – and adults – achieve coherence by calming their emotions and focusing their hearts and minds.
The emWave Pro challenges you to become coherent as you practice with it, and you can actually monitor your progress by watching your heart rhythms on the computer screen. The emWave utilizes scientifically developed techniques and a variety of games to help users achieve coherence.
Michael is an 11-year-old fifth-grader diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder who had great difficulty sitting still and reading at the beginning of the school year and who was hypersensitive to criticism. His teacher often sent him to Sarin at the beginning of the year.
“He would take such offense to minor comments by other students that he would be in tears, unable to return to the classroom, on a regular basis,” she said.
Sarin recently asked Michael to discuss his progress this year and the HeartMath techniques he has used.
“In the beginning of the year, people would insult me and I would just go into a spot and cry,” Michael said. “I use my good feelings to cancel out my bad feelings. I take a deep breath in, and then I breathe through my heart. … I go into a nice, peaceful shady spot in my mind. And then, when I’m ready, I imagine the shady spot in my mind is purple (for Michael, purple means he should pause for a few seconds), and then blue takes over and calm takes over my body.”
Michael also incorporates the HeartMath techniques he has learned when he is at home.
“Sometimes when I’m really angry, I ask my mom if I can go ride my bike in the park,” he said. “Then I go under a big shady tree, and I do karate postures that my friend taught me, which help me change my emotions…
“Now I get along better with people in school, but mostly the high schoolers, not the people in my class. The high schoolers feel my pain because they used to have the same thing happen to them. Slowly, each day I’m getting along better with the people in my class – a bit.”
Sarin told Michael he seemed much calmer than he did at the start of the school year and he told her it was because HeartMath taught him to sit in a quiet place.
Additionally, she explained, “When I ask in his class for people to come in and do HeartMath on the emWave, Michael’s hand shoots up to go first. He seems to know just what to do, and generally (scores) in the ‘green’ area for 80-100% of the session.” (Green indicates the highest level of coherence on the emWave.)
“One day I told him he seemed to be getting better about helping himself when he’s upset. His teacher wasn’t sending him to me much at all. He said, ‘When I’m upset, I just use that HeartMath stuff you taught us, and it gets better right away.’ “
HeartMath in High School Grades
StarShine’s high school students also use the emWave Pro, and, Sarin said, “I was surprised at how well they’ve taken to it. All but a few were able to get into coherence and could feel the difference when they were in coherence versus when they weren’t. … It was very interesting to me that a couple of students who I expected to have difficulty getting into coherence were able to, quite easily, including a couple ED special-needs kids, who said afterwards, ‘I think this will help me.’ “
Sarin utilized HeartMath’s TestEdge® program with high school students. TestEdge is the name of a series of interactive learning programs for various age groups from elementary grades through college-age students. They are nationally tested programs designed to help students of all ages overcome test anxiety, a significant problem among a high percentage of students at all grade levels.
The TestEdge National Demonstration Study, which received federal funding and was conducted among a large number of students, was shown to aid students not only in improving test scores, but also overcoming learning blocks and significantly improving overall academic success. Studies also show TestEdge and emWave Pro are effective at improving students’ relationships with their teachers, friends and families.