Mindful walks create a rhythm to start the day.
It’s a Tuesday morning and the sunshine sparkles off the snow outside of Oak Ridge Elementary School of Leadership, Environmental and Health Sciences. The school starts each morning with 15 minute Mindful Walks around the school campus. Here is the structure one second grade classroom uses to make these mindful moments meaningful.
Before the Walk: Setting the Stage
Second graders trickle in the classroom door. Most join the group at the carpet, but a few remain at their desks- some tucked into raised hoodies. Students begin with our Breathing Routine as a way to settle into the morning. Mrs. B opens a big book of nature poems and reads a winter poem by Robert Frost. She reads it once. Closes her eyes and waits. Then, opens her eyes and asks the students what they saw. After a few share, she reads it again.
“I love reading a nature poem before our Mindful Walk. It sets the stage for noticings”.
The second graders bundle up in snow gear and line up at the door. Walking outside is a physical manifestation for clearing the slate. Mrs. B talks about the importance of this time for connection and healing. This time is different from recess because, as the kids explain, “there is no running or games.” Mrs. B recognizes the importance of this time to practice self-management. Some students do feel the need to run, but continuing to practice each day creates a new muscle memory for slow, mindful walking. Each day the students intentionally walk the same path. There is a comfort in the predictability and structure of the routine.
It is also different from naturalist time because, “we don’t have any work to do.” This time is a gift to… just be. Students notice the shadows cast on the snow from the barren tree branches. A group observes animal tracks and different consistencies of snow. Winter is so beautiful and the morning walk offers an opportunity to slow down and notice. Students are even given the opportunity to stop along the way and move their bodies in various yoga-based movements.
Mrs. B is also able to check in and help students reset for the day. Hand in hand, very little words are needed to forge connection. The combination of movement and fresh air sends endorphins to the brain that allow students (and teachers) to reframe towards the positive.
After the Walk: Reintegration
After the walk, students gather back at the carpet. Mrs. B reads aloud a short picture book to reintegrate to the classroom. This time, all students join the carpet. “The students are much more willing to participate after our walk”, Mrs. B says. Then, students will transition to their managed independent learning. This is the stretch of the day that requires the most stamina. However, the mindful morning morning routine has prepared their brains, bodies and hearts for the challenging tasks ahead.
A Trauma Responsive Approach
We know that a trauma responsive lens utilizes rhythm- beginnings, middles and endings. Predictability. Structure. Someone may look at this daily routine and wonder about the time commitment. However, some of the latest research shows an average teacher requires 45 minutes of redirection time a day due to emotional breakdowns. We know that most students do not enter the classroom ready to learn. Routines like Mrs. B’s Mindful Walk allow for students to come in as they are, and join the rhythm of the school day.
What do you use to create rhythm in the school day? Have you tried Mindful Walking? Leave a comment!