Mindfulness is all the rage right now in education. You pretty much can’t go anywhere without doing some colouring in, meditation or easy listening music.
Even in the staffrooms you sit in you will find it. People crocheting, colouring in random shapes or slowly sipping a lukewarm coffee to truly appreciate it.
We know finding time and space in our full minds is crucial. Mindfulness can not only help to reduce stress, but can also prevent us going over and over and over the same unhelpful thoughts. When we stop doing that we can increase our awareness of what’s going on in the world around us.
If you’re anything like me though, sometimes my class end up just doing mindful colouring for a few minutes because…well, I’m so into it.
What I’ve found this year is that there’s another way to tackle this that doesn’t actually require any photocopying or discussions about sharing the red texta.
It’s called “Outside”.
No photocopying or laminating required. Just walk on out and find a space to lie, sit, stand, squat or headstand.
For us, we started by simply heading outside to our school oval and lying down for two minutes (though learn from my mistake and make sure a PE class won’t try to use it half way through your time).
Our whole focus was on making time for ourselves to notice things around us. We headed outside, found our spots and started noticing.
While some kids found it hard to not check what their friends were doing, stay quiet, or be still; throughout that two minutes, every single one of them stopped at some point. Every single one of them had some time to stop, notice and be that little bit mindful.
When we got back in the classroom we started sharing things they noticed.
The clouds were twisting and turning.
I didn’t realise how many birds were around our school.
The astroturf stuff can be rough and soft at the same time.
My shoulders feel so much more relaxed.
Have we always had that many different trees around our yard?
It was pretty great to hear some of the things as they continued to share. They were so reflective and positive…after only two minutes of switching off to remember the amazing and wild world around them.
In a time when all we seem to hear about is how terrible everything is and the futility of trying to do anything – for two minutes we had the absolute freedom to switch off and just appreciate whatever was around us. (Let’s be honest, for some of them it was twenty seconds…okay even for me, sometimes it’s only twenty seconds – I’m trying though!).
Don’t get me wrong, when we were first heading outside the kids were ridiculously excited. They struggled to settle down, find space for themselves and take some time to notice things around them. But, like all new skills and learning, as we continue to make time for it, they continue to get so much more responsive to it (clear expectations also help too).
What’s exciting, is that after this experience we’ve even had some kids talking about starting up “Nature Walks” around school in the morning or afternoon to notice and connect with the wild around them. Students who had not previously tried to lead or take on initiatives have started wanting to lead.
If we’re serious about teaching these leaders of our future that they can make change, imagine possibilities and see connections within their world, we probably need to start giving them opportunities to experience and practise that.
After all, the possibilities are just outside the classroom door, so why wouldn’t we try it?
Daniel Steele is a primary school educator, advocate and new dad navigating dadhood. He is the founder of Upgrade Think Learn and a contributor for The Mind Room. If you’re interested in more posts by Daniel, head to Upgrade Think Learn. You can also find Daniel on Twitter @LifeButUpgraded, on Facebook @Upgrade Think Learn or on Instagram @upgradethinklearn.