New Year Priority

Time and again I’ve started a New Year’s Resolution and by the end of January my enthusiasm to keep the resolution has all but fizzled out. Maybe some of you have experienced this tiresome cycle.

Shoes and matsThis year I’m trying to combat the cycle by hitching my resolution to my yoga practice. Since I do yoga as often as I can, I figured this would help me in carry out my new priority.

First, you need to know a few things about me. I like to accomplish tasks quickly and efficiently at the expense of neatness and Shoestidiness. Picture a closet gushing with scarves, slippers and hats, or finding a lotion bottle with the cleaning supplies. This of course is not the way to a clean and tidy house, and in the end will probably cost me more time in the hunt than it would to put the item away properly.

Like the items exploding from the closet, this is a part of my mind I don’t want to face. Taking time to intentionally put things where they need to go (clothes in the dresser not on the floor!) means a complete rewiring of my brain. This, my friends, is where yoga comes into the picture.

One essential part of yoga is connecting the mind with every movement. When I am practicing I make thoughtful and intentional choices in each position that suit my body. Taking the extra moment to connect mind to body is what makes my yoga practice so beneficial.

One day I realized this intentional mind set is what I was lacking at home.  Since then I’ve started taking some extra time to connect my intentions of a clean house to my actions. This means I’ve started to place things in their designated spots instead of leaving them in random places. I still have moments of relapse but every time I go back to yoga I reconnect with my priority.

It has not been easy but I have seen growth in myself and have gained the extra time spent cleaning when I go to find something and it’s in the right spot!

Lessons for Fall

For many of us, buying new pencils, pumpkin spiced everything, football, and warm socks mark the beginning of fall! But for teachers autumn ushers in a wellspring of environmental education themes. Three topics are especially interesting this time of year–resilience, migration, and animals we love to hate. 

Perhaps our strongest instinct is for self preservation. Even in the most difficult conditions, living creatures strive to survive. Fall is a time many animals gather resources and prepare for the long winter ahead. Even though they run around like crazy, squirrels show a lot of discipline as they collect their food for winter to improve their chances of survival.

Watching the preparations squirrels and other mammals are making leads to a unit on human survival. While humans don’t gather nuts and berries to survive the winter, we do have basic needs to take care of–warm clothes, winterizing our homes, preserving food from the garden. Help your students compare how people and animals adapt to the environment. Monarch butterfly

Migration is a lighter topic for fall. Nothing like a road trip!

As I enjoyed my morning run I noticed a Monarch butterfly fluttering along next to me. Besides their magnificent colors, Monarchs are capable of a journey that would be nearly impossible for a human without a car or airplane, flying from the northern United States and Canada to California and Mexico.

Take your class outside to appreciate the fact that the Monarch is about to embark on a perilous journey. Spark a conversation about cycles and patterns. Have students write a letter to a butterfly explaining what it can expect on its journey and wishing it well; older students can research areas the Monarchs will travel through.

Have students create a map showing the Monarchs’ route. Students can demonstrate their understanding of migratory patterns , as well as the lifecycle of the Monarch. Extend the lesson by adding migrations for different birds that fly through your area.

Especially at Halloween, there are certain animals we love to hate. We decorate our yards and homes with animals that typically scare us–spiders, bats and snakes, oh my! It’s the perfect time to get kids to talk about their fears, and the un-scary, even helpful things these animals do.
Vulture Verses cover

Initiate critical thinking through the book Vulture Verses: Love Poems for the Unloved by Diane Lang; it focuses on the creepy crawly animals. Lang opens conversation about the crucial role every animal plays in the environment. We don’t have to love these animals but we can respect what they do for us!

Happy Autumn!

Alone on the Prairie

Last week I packed my bags and headed on a vacation with my parents and siblings. Our destination was Lake Florida in Minnesota.

While we were there we volunteered at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center! One of my projects was clearing trails around the prairie. Early in the morning, a little grumpy and weary from such an early start, I set off to complete my task.

But it did not take long for the beauty and simplicity of the prairie to engulf me and completely change my mood.Prairie flower

As I walked the trails the different prairie grasses and flowers began to capture my attention. The grasses were purple, orange, brown, and green. The flowers yellow, pink, blue, and white. The colors were iridescent as they danced in the wind and sun. I strolled along marshland rich with forest green vegetation and songs of birds.

The views took my breath away. The beauty of the prairie made me curious. I was alone but I had questions I wanted and I wanted answers. As I strolled I read the plaques provided and pondered my background knowledge of prairies.

I got lost in my thoughts and almost forgot to clean the trails! This curiosity attack made me think of how much I need time to be in the outdoors alone. It stimulates my curiosity. Curiosity is essential when you take students outside.

Rachel holding a prairie blossomKids have an innate ability to detect when someone is not being genuine. As the instructor I need to shine with wonder and eagerness so they can see that I am genuinely happy to be outside with them!

I write this story to say “take some time to be alone outside!” Find trails to saunter down or a place to volunteer. Get in touch with your wonder and curiosity. Then take them to your classroom, friends, and children!

If you are ever in Northern Minnesota I recommend you stop by the learning center!