WILLIAMSON COUNTY - Round Rock ISD and its teachers are helping some students learn what they call a 21st-century life skill.
They believe "mindfulness meditation" helps all of them, and could lead to long-term improvements in the classroom and in life.
At Forest North Elementary, the smell of essential oil wafts through the air, as soft music plays and a voice intones, "Today you will try some more slow breathing."
It's quiet as Ms. McKenney's class finds their mental focus and breathes deeply,
8-year-old Evelyn Bailey and her classmates are learning mindfulness meditation.
Bailey's face lit up as she exclaimed, "I love it, sometimes I do it 12 times a day!"
And the kids say meditation is helping them learn more about themselves.
"It helps me stay calm when I'm frustrated," said Kaleb Warren.
Mindfulness is a meditation practice that focuses on paying attention to breathing and finding that still, quiet place within yourself.
The sessions last from three to five minutes and can happen a few times during the school day.
For some classes, dimly lit rooms are part of the process.
In teacher Jennifer Rhea's room, the lights are low and all eyes are closed, as the students breathe slowly and deeply.
Experts say these exercises help children develop emotional awareness, become less anxious and improve concentration.
"Just two minutes a day can really impact a child's ability to calm themselves down to focus and achieve more academically," Rhea said. "Whatever stressors or whatever was going on before they came in absolutely melts away and lets us focus on our work. With all of the stress going on in the world, it's almost a disservice not to teach kids these strategies to help them cope, to help them manage and to help them calm themselves down."
And there are no rules on what the kids can think about while meditating.
"I think about my family," said Karis Nichols. "They help me calm down at home."
Forest North's teachers say the meditation exercises during the school day are helping them as well, because it's an opportunity to collect their thoughts, and to work on being more calm and focused, just like their students.
(© 2016 KVUE)