By Michelle Griffin, EfS Teacher
Students arrive at my door, choose a seat on the rug and enjoy low-volume chatting. I take my seat among them and begin the ritual of calling each child’s name. They respond with a non-verbal “thumbs up, middle or down.” From consistent practice, we all know this communicates if they are feeling good, ok, or bad.
We gather at the door to review our essential agreements associated with field work. Keeping ourselves safe while respecting our natural world quickly becomes an intuitive part of each member in our school community. We step outside and stop to take a deep, centering breath. I ask a few students how it feels to breathe in the cold air:
“My lungs are shocked!”
“Aaahhh….that smells so good!”
And from one student, I hear, “Thanks, trees! Keep pumping it out and I’ll keep breathing it in!”
We pass the climbing wall and emerge at the vegetable and butterfly gardens. While we notice remnants of kale and collards, most edibles have been harvested. We stop for a moment, and I ask, “What do you remember from harvesting and eating the food from your bed?”:
“I remember I do not like collards!”
“I remember making kale chips, then going home and begging my mom to make more. It’s my new favorite snack.”
We leave the garden for a brisk walk up and around the high meadow. I ask the students to wonder as they walk, “How do wild animals find food in the winter?” As we circle the edge of the meadow and skirt the edge of the pond, we pause again. I ask the students to close their eyes, take a deep breath, and listen to the sound of the small waterfall in the pond. I ask them to recall at least one thought around our “I wonder” of how wild animals find food in the winter.
Eyes open, and I ask a few students to share their thoughts. Because so many want to share, I suggest they take their thoughts back to class and use them as a writing prompt in their journals. Some of the ideas lead to what we will do at our next class: create animal-friendly edible garlands to hang in the trees around campus. Taking action with acquired knowledge is another intuitive trait of our longer-term students. We take one more calming deep breath as I remind them to carry their current “alert-yet-calm” mindset to the next class.
A student’s most productive waking hours are gifted to classroom teachers. With that opportunity comes a responsibility to model and guide a well-balanced and healthy life. We teachers look for ways to weave healthy habits into the ever-expanding fabric of our curriculum because we know it’s the little habits formed early and over many years that lead to a healthy life.