9-Minute Time Investment Yields Significant Impact

Jaak Panksepp, PhD, a distinguished neuroscientist, developed the 9-Minute Theory to guide parents and caregivers on how emotional bonding during specific daily intervals can shape young individuals’ lives through predictability, mimicking emotions, and strengthening connections with each other and the environment. This theory consists of three segments, each lasting three minutes, with significant implications for schools.

The initial segment kickstarts the school day, preparing the nervous system for stability and learning. Midday moments address transitions by providing intentional breaks to reset the nervous systems. The final segment, a three-minute connection session, concludes the day and aids in creating a sense of closure and tranquility for both educators and students.

The 9-Minute Theory emphasizes incorporating rituals like personalized greetings, morning meetings, and community circles into classrooms to foster a supportive environment that enhances relational wealth beyond traditional activities.

Students often arrive at school with dysregulated nervous systems, hindering their ability to focus and problem-solve under stress. Educators have experienced the impact of this generation grappling with layered societal trauma and adversity compounded by the recent mental health crises exacerbated by the pandemic.

The heightened instances of physical and verbal aggression in schools reflect the prioritization of attachment by our nervous systems. While trauma can affect brain physiology, establishing connections can counteract the negative impacts of adversarial experiences, offering students a sense of safety and connection crucial for their well-being.

These daily nine-minute intervals act as warm-ups for learning, facilitating the resetting of nervous systems midday and fostering closure at the end of the school day, promoting overall emotional regulation, executive function, and problem-solving skills essential for academic success.

Below are concise exercises that educators can incorporate into the school day intentionally to enhance learning, testing, and the development of skills like working memory, emotional regulation, and problem-solving as part of executive functions.

Initial 3 minutes: Connection Stretching

1. Paper tearing. Greet students at the door with a blank sheet of paper, instruct them to tear it into small pieces, and encourage them to create designs to share with peers, fostering creativity and collaboration.

2. Let’s toast. Engage students in a routine where they toast each other with coffee mugs, reflecting on strengths and attributes, creating a positive atmosphere through shared gestures.

3. Imagination starters. Pose imaginative questions to students to stimulate their creativity and prepare their minds for the learning ahead.

MidDay: 3-Minute Station Breaks

Transition segments. Allocate time during the day for students to reset and engage in activities like drawing, journaling, or having a snack to facilitate smoother transitions and enhance focus and engagement.

1. My Favorite Vacation Spot. Encourage students to envision and describe an ideal travel destination, fostering creativity and imagination as they share their dream locations.

2. Collaboration stories. Engage students in group storytelling using drawings, encouraging creativity, collaboration, and communication skills as they build on each other’s contributions to create unique narratives.

The Final 3 Minutes: Exiting the Day

Conclude the day by reflecting on positive moments and touchpoints that went well, setting the tone for a fresh start the following day or class period.

1. Effort moments. Encourage students to document instances where they exerted effort, fostering a growth mindset and recognizing persistence and determination rather than focusing on outcomes.

2. Video clip endings. Engage students in watching and interpreting video clips, encouraging critical thinking and creativity as they imagine or guess the endings, promoting active engagement with the content.

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