Polyvagal Theory Comes to Life in Our Schools and Classrooms

Course Price

$299

Course length

5 hours

About the course

Polyvagal Theory Comes to Life in Our Schools and Classrooms


This course introduces the science of Polyvagal Theory and how the application of this theory into our schools will support social and emotional well-being. The goal is to understand how our nervous system drives all behaviors and learning. Current education models require compliance and control based state regulation, while to attend to mental and cognitive tasks, we need to feel safe and connected inside our environments, experiences, and relationships.


Our nervous systems and physiological states create and produce the behaviors we observe, question, discuss, punish, suspend, seclude, and attend to in all moments throughout the day.  As educators who sit with 30 to 180 plus nervous systems every day, we have traditionally paid attention to observable behaviors, assessing them as appropriate, disrespectful, inappropriate, oppositional, aggressive, manipulative, and a variety of other labels and classifications. Polyvagal Theory and recent social and affective neuroscience shows that education requires “state regulation” . If we are able to access and integrate the cognitive and mental tasks we need to succeed in school and positively navigate life experiences.


We hope that these modules will be a part of your procedures, routines, and transitions as you prepare the student’s nervous system for the challenges and lived experiences of the day. When we are intentional about acknowledging our autonomic nervous systems, we are building capacity in our bodies for safety and connection.


Most of us in the western part of the world have been conditioned, parented, and schooled through the lens of Behaviorism. Conventionally, our school systems and structures have embedded behaviorism along with contingency programs that address and focus upon compliance and control. Many of these contingency behavioral regulations and handbooks mirror zero tolerance policies from the 1990’s and early 2000’s often designed by racially privileged school leaders and groups that have unintentionally increased discipline, racial inequities and disparities for our children and youth of color, culture, and special education populations. Many educators have grown up with the “law and order” mentality that focuses on accountability solely through the lens of observable behaviors. In the United States today, we implement corporal punishment in 19 states. But we have a significant disconnect. Our most troubled youth and children have nervous systems that are wired in a survival brain and body state.


Most of us in the western part of the world have been conditioned, parented, and schooled through the lens of Behaviorism. Conventionally, our school systems and structures have embedded behaviorism along with contingency programs that address and focus upon compliance and control. Many of these contingency behavioral regulations and handbooks mirror zero tolerance policies from the 1990’s and early 2000’s often designed by racially privileged school leaders and groups that have unintentionally increased discipline, racial inequities and disparities for our children and youth of color, culture, and special education populations. Many educators have grown up with the “law and order” mentality that focuses on accountability solely through the lens of observable behaviors. In the United States today, we implement corporal punishment in 19 states. But we have a significant disconnect. Our most troubled youth and children have nervous systems that are wired in a survival brain and body state.


The Covid pandemic has added layers of adversity and trauma to the lives of our children, families, and communities. Children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty levels.


We hope that these polyvagal modules for educators will be road maps guiding us all toward growth as we model the complex and beautiful ways our brains and bodies are always communicating and working for us, not against us. Our challenge is to listen to our bodies as we become aware of the sensory and regulatory practices that assist us in returning home to the balanced, safe, and connected places that promote our emotional, social, and physiological well-being.


We are offering this course through a virtual platform as we have developed three live modules and two on-demand modules that will move us through this academic year. We will begin in November with one module a month, and finish in March. Student modules are aligned with the educator modules (PDF) with accompanying worksheets and resources.  You will have access to the course materials for 60 days after Module 5, May 10th 2022.


Module 01
November 11th 2021,  LIVE ZOOM meeting 8:00pm EST (US, Canada)


Module 02

On-demand, self-paced


Module 03

January 13th 2022, LIVE ZOOM meeting 8:00pm EST (US, Canada)


Module 04

On-demand, self-paced


Module 05

March 10th 2022, LIVE ZOOM meeting 8:00pm EST (US. Canada)



Instructor Information:

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Lori Desautels, PhD

Lori Desautels, PhD

Dr. Lori Desautels has been an Assistant Professor at Butler University since 2016 where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Education. Lori is a former special education teacher and school counselor. In 2016, Lori created a nine-hour graduate certification at Butler University in Applied Educational Neuroscience/Brain and Trauma. Lori Is the author of four books and her latest book, “Connections over Compliance: Rewiring Our Perception of Discipline” was released in 2020. Lori co-authored the social and emotional competencies for the state of Indiana and created a 100-day educational Neuroscience toolkit for educators worldwide. Lori writes for Edutopia and co-teaches in schools where she shares the application of her research in K-12 classrooms.

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Stephen W. Porges, PhD

Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He is the originator of the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral, mental, and health problems related to traumatic experiences. He is also the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol ™, which is used by therapists to improve language processing, state regulation, and spontaneous social engagement.

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