May 9

How Can We Blend Mindfulness and Nature for Whole-Child Development?

by Meghan Fitzgerald

It’s not every workday that you get to interact with a colleague whose passion knocks your socks off. And, luckily, that happened for me this week when I teamed up with Dr. Ilana Nankin of Breathe for Change to share how nature and mindfulness can help kids grow and thrive. And, what better day for it than Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day!

If you missed the webinar, don't worry! A full recording and a sprinkle of my favorite moments are below. 

The Webinar

We designed the hour to be informative and interactive. Both Ilana and I have been classroom teachers and parents, and we wanted participants to leave our time together with actionable ideas and practices that they could implement and feel the impact of right away. We hope you feel it, too!

Topics

In our hour together, we explored the power of nature and mindfulness by grounding ourselves in the research-based benefits to kids (and ourselves) and practical ways to overcome some of the common barriers to getting the kids we love and teach outside.

We also established a common understanding of what mindfulness is and why it is such an unlock for learning. We also practiced five, tangible mindfulness strategies and reflected on how we could incorporate nature to make them even more powerful.

Nuggets of Wisdom

In addition to just feeling a deep sense of presence and gratitude after the session, I walked away really jazzed about what I learned. To follow are some of the insights that stuck out to me. Watch the recording to get them all. You’ll also get access to a few special offers (NOTE: One expires on Sunday, 5/12, so don’t wait!)

What is Mindfulness?

We hear “mindfulness” so often, and its power is undeniable, but what is it? It felt like a real gift to hear Ilana—who has dedicated her life’s work to understanding and teaching mindfulness describe it. And, it was a joy to join in with the educators in attendance as we reflected back how we each experience mindfulness in our work and lives. [Video: 07:30 & 28:00]

Making Nature Doable

The struggle to get the kids we love and teach outdoors is real, so we spent some time reviewing the benefits and practical ways to overcome common barriers to outdoor time. [Video: ~11:20]

Supporting Sensory Engagement

So much of how we experience the world and connect body to brain is related to our senses. And, there are far more than the five senses we learned about in Kindergarten.

I led us to consider the sensory system, offering some strategies and a powerful metaphor that can help us better observe, understand, and support each child as a unique sensory learner. This is especially helpful when we take the learning outdoors. 

Natural settings can be inherently calming spaces, but not all kids spend a lot of time outdoors (yet!). And, even if they do, transitioning from an indoor setting to a sensory-rich outdoor environment can be nuanced. With a little insight about how sensory systems work and how our senses impact how we learn, teachers and parents alike can become much more effective facilitators of kids’ learning, indoors and out! [Video: ~15:15]

“Hidden” Senses

I also shared more information about two “hidden” senses that each have a big impact on how kids experience the world, behave, and learn. When you know more about how and why kids need to stimulate proprioception (the sensing of pressure in the muscles, ligaments and joints) and the vestibular system (the sensing of movement of our heads in our inner ear), you can create opportunities for all kids to feel calm and centered and to turn on their brains and bodies for learning! [Video: ~19:20] 

Mindfulness Practices

From the very beginning of our time together, Ilana modeled mindfulness in action, helping to settle us all in, demonstrating practices we can use with students (or even just on our own), and reminding us to reflect on how we feel after each impactful practice. 

I’ve already started using the tangible practices we learned, which included:

  • Mindful Breathing
  • Mindful Feeling
  • Mindful Thinking
  • Mindful Walking
  • Mindful Movement

Check out the recording to learn and start using all five in your teaching or home! [Video: ~30:31]

Special Offers!

Both organizations could not be more committed to bringing the power of mindfulness and nature to more kids, teachers, and families. In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we shared two very special offers:
Breathe For Change’s beloved Mindfulness, SEL, and Yoga Teacher Training, and Tinkergarten’s own Plus and Pro subscriptions for teachers who want to bring nature play into their classrooms, homeschools or communities. 

Watch the recording to learn more about each organization and how to take advantage of these special offers! [Video: ~50:55]

My Favorite Part

What was the best part of this workshop for me? How darn good I felt in body, mind, and heart at the end. It was such a gift to be reminded how central our emotions are to everything we do and learn. This is true for us as teachers, as caregivers and as learners—and it’s so very true for the children we love and teach. I started the webinar with two words: “grateful and excited,” and though those were still my two words at the end, I wrote them (and felt them) in ALL CAPS!  I hope you feel the same lift from this conversation and from the chance to add more nature and mindfulness into your day to day!

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Meghan Fitzgerald

Founder

After 20+ years as an educator, curriculum developer and school leader, I have my dream gig—an entrepreneur/educator/mom who helps families everywhere, including my own, learn outside. Prior to Tinkergarten®, I worked as an Elementary School Principal, a Math/Science Specialist & and a teacher in public and private schools in NY, MA and CA. I earned a BA with majors in English and Developmental Psychology at Amherst College, an MS in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College, and was trained to become a Forest School leader at Bridgwater College, UK. My worldview is formed in response to my environment, culture, family, identity and experiences. What I write in this blog will inevitably betray the blind spots I have as a result—we all have them! Please reach out if there are other perspectives or world views I could consider in anything I write about. I welcome the chance to learn and update any pieces to broaden our shared perspective!

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