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THE BRAIN + STRESS RESPONSE: Social Emotional Learning Stress Management Lesson



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Teach your students about the brain and stress response with this trauma-informed, social emotional learning lesson. Help children better understand the roles that their Thoughtful Turtle brain (prefrontal cortex) and Protective Porcupine brain (amygdala) play when we experience stress and big emotions.  Moreover, this lesson will empower them with calming tools and emotion regulation tips.  Best of all, this social emotional learning lesson will also help you to reinforce compassionate classroom management.

Your students will have tons of fun watching the animated video and/or listening to the printable book!  So much so, that they won’t even realize just how much they are learning.  Moreover, the Thoughtful Turtle and Protective Porcupine characters make this lesson easily relatable and developmentally appropriate for young people.  The worksheets help students determine what is stressful to them.  In addition, some activities invite them to think about what coping skills they can use when they feel stress.  By the end of this lesson, your students will have a much better understanding of why they react in certain ways to stress and, even better, how to deal with it.



Your students will learn about common stressors that impact children, the Fight-Flight-Freeze Response, and emotion regulation coping tools. Additionally, they will learn about the different physical sensations and roles that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and amygdala play. For instance, that the PFC is the thoughtful part of your brain, and it helps you to make smart choices and think before you act, set goals and make plans, find solutions, understand emotions, treat others and yourself with kindness, and self-regulate.  On the other hand, the amygdala is the protective part of your brain.  It watches out for anything that might harm you, tries to protect you and keep you safe, and gets your body ready to fight, flee, or freeze.

This fun stress management lesson goes great with our Calm Kids Activity Book Personalized Calm Corner Kits.  And be sure to check out our free Fight, Flight, and Freeze Reference Poster, too!

Additional information

Product Categories

Best Sellers, Coping Skills + Self-Regulation, Classroom Management, Social Emotional Tools, Feelings + Emotions, Individual + Group Counseling, Lessons, Executive Functioning, Classroom + Office Decor

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  • 11 minute Animated Video (with music in the background), Google Slides™ Presentation, or Printable Book Lesson
  • 4 Reference Guide Posters
  • Sorting Cards (printable and digital)
  • Calming Tool Deck
  • Calming Tool Check-In Slider (great for Calm Corners and Classroom Management)
  • Worksheets
  • Digital Activities, including Digital Spinner with 30 questions/prompts to reinforce main ideas of the lesson


My child was struggling with increased anxiety with return to school and I went looking for resources to help him. He loves learning from stories and when I shared the story of the thoughtful turtle and the protective porcupine, he LOVED it. The story reframed our language for talking about stress reactions which activate the protective porcupine. I shared it with his teachers and they loved it so much that I bought additional licenses and they shared the video with their classes. (I even found myself telling folks at work about the thoughtful turtle and protective porcupine as we were scenario planning.) One request, please, please please publish this story as a book. I want to share the story with everyone!

-Sally M.

August 30, 2021, TPT Review



This is one of the most engaging and age appropriate resources I’ve come across so far when discussing the stress response with elementary kiddos, I absolutely love it!! Very appreciative of the variety of activities included as well, and the posters are such a hit!

-Abigail S.

August 14, 2021, TPT Review



I am a play therapist, and I feel like I’ve been looking for this perfect book for my whole career!! I have used so many different books and charts and posters over the years to try to explain the stress response to children in an understandable AND interesting way, and this does it! I have only used it in sessions twice so far, but I anticipate using it with children ages 3-13ish (with varying degrees of detail and discussion). I can see it being a central feature of therapy for some children, building on the turtle/porcupine concept. Just brilliant! You (the author) should be very proud or what you’ve created!

-Social Worker Superpowers (TPT Seller) 

August 11, 2021, TPT Review 



I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these. So easy to read and understand. Can be used across a wide age range and support children and young people to understand how their brain responds to stress.

-Mandy R.

July 26, 2021, TPT Review



Great resource! It pairs well with the calm boxes I made for each classroom and helped to reinforce the skills I taught around those.

-Nicole T.

December 26, 2021, TPT Review

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