Researchers' Corner

RESEARCHERS - WE WANT YOU! Yes, it's well proven that stress is bad for kids, and that a few deep breaths are helpful in reducing this stress. And yes, we know that kids like butterflies. So... why do we want researchers? It's simple: we'd really be thrilled if a researcher interested in stress and children would choose our little breathing butterfly as part of their research. It would help spread the word about this project, and it would increase our reach.

Why Contact Us

  • Materials: High quality video CDs of our visualizations, printouts or other Butterfly materials.
  • Partnership: We know these resources well and can help. And we'll cheer you on.
  • Potential $: We may be able to help you offset some of the cost of undertaking your well designed, randomized, controlled study.
  • Reach: We'd love to tweet about your findings and otherwise help in the furtherance of the dissemination of your results.

Credentialed researchers in association with accredited universities (or graduate students, under direction) only. Please contact us for details.

Researchers with a focus on childhood stress and stress reduction will surely find our Breathing Butterfly resources to be useful, especially as they are offered in so many languages. We are very interested in supporting your efforts to shine a light on childhood stress, and we invite your partnership. Thank you for joining with us!

To test the efficacy of our Butterfly Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction meditation in reducing stress in children, consider the following:

INDEPENDENT VARIABLE (Butterfly Meditation)

The independent variable, which you control, is showing the Butterfly meditation to the children.  Possibilities include: randomly selecting half the children to watch the Butterfly and half to do something else, or randomly selecting days in which the Butterfly meditation will be shown.

We asked Dr. David Grusky, Director of The Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University, to ring in with an opinion. He tells us "the gold standard would be to randomly select half the children to receive the meditation and half not to receive it." The researcher would need some type of placebo for the not-selected kids. But this is sometimes not feasible, and so if a study can be run for a great many days and hence safely randomize against spurious day effects, such as the extra happiness to be found on the day before vacation, then that's acceptable as an alternative.


The dependent variable, which you test for, is the level of stress in the children. One very quick and easy way to tell is by asking the children to rate their own levels of stress, using this graphic image:

How are you feeling
Download printable PDF here

Do this both before and after the viewing of the butterfly meditation or the control activity (if half the group participates in some other activity instead of the butterfly meditation). For professional researchers, a host of other stress scales are available here:  In addition, room loudness levels both before and after the butterfly meditation will give a quantitative measure of a change in the room environment. Loudness monitors are available at retailers at a variety of price points, and The Elfenworks Foundation has a few available to teachers who would like to borrow them to undertake research on The Butterfly Meditation, simply contact us.

For professional researchers interested in the “gold standard” of stress testing, Professor David Grusky of The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality recommends measuring cortisol levels. However, without proper understanding, the measuring of cortisol can itself introduce stress into a child’s environment. Dr. Megan Gunnar ( has developed a "tasting game" which can be used to check stress cortisols directly without introducing further stress. Because cortisol levels fluctuate during the day, the sample should be taken at the same time every day. Noon is a good, stable time for testing, but only if the child hasn't eaten within the last hour (otherwise, cortisols may be lowered by the food). Sample collection times should be noted by the researcher, the samples taken following the lab instructions, and the samples should be frozen within forty minutes of the test.

Stress cortisol testing is done with saliva kits, available at and other CLIA certified labs. Cortisol saliva tests, using swabs, are available from a number of these labs, at a variety of prices, and turnaround times can average four weeks. Labs generally supply a final report with one for each test, and a mean (average score) for the particular sample set.  Research costs include swabs, which are bought in packs of fifty and can range from twenty five to fifty dollars a pack, and tubes, at about that same range. The following sample budget is for illustrative purposes only. Yours may vary substantially, so it is important to check with a lab for actual costs before submitting a grant proposal anywhere, or pursuing research.

Sample Budget
# of Tests 50 100 300 5000
Swabs (children under or over age 6) $70-80 or 20-40 140-160 or
420-320 or
Collection tubes $25-50 50-100 150-300 250-500
Testing at $10-15/sample 500-750 1000-1500 3000-4500 500-750

Labs generally supply a final report with one for each test, and a mean (average score) for the particular sample set. Expect an average turn-around time of four weeks, for a CLIA certified lab.


It is important to understand the effects of the meditation on girls versus boys, and whether it works best on certain age or demographic groups. For each child, along with their unique identifier (either their name or some other marker) note gender, age, and national origin, thusly. While demographic information should  only be collected once, it is important so that we can know which groups are best helped by The Butterfly Meditation. The researcher should ensure that every individual child be tracked uniquely kept so results can be separately measured and assessed.

Name/id _______________   age _____        Gender ____  

Ethnicity (best fit):
African-American [ ]
Asian-American [ ]
Caucasian [ ]
Hawaiian or N.Pacific Islander [ ]  
Hispanic or Latino American [ ]
Native American [ ]
Other [ ]
Other: ______________
Butterfly Meditation Language Viewed: ____________________

Note: Are you an undergraduate student? Is your study of a smaller scope? We'd still be interested to hear about it. If you have a question about your research - perhaps you're not sure whether your research would fit within the above framework, but think it could otherwise be useful in showing the efficacy of The Breathing Butterfly project, we'd like to hear from you. From all of us at Elfenworks, thank you for all you do, making a positive ripple.