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Unity and a Sense of Wonder

This article originally appeared in the Indigo Messenger in March 2017. Written by Yoga and PE teacher Sarah McCarthy.

Each new year is a surprise to us
We find that we have virtually forgotten the note of each bird.
And when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream,
reminding us of a previous state of existence...
The voice of nature is always encouraging.

-Henry David Thoreau

As we move into the last months of school, we as teachers are focusing on the school's third value, Reverence for Life: "We promote environmental stewardship by participating in nature-based activities and by exploring the connection between all living things, to establish a genuine sense of wonder and responsibility in our students."

I have been re-reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. What a gem of a book. This book talks about why kids benefit tremendously from being nurtured by nature. Louv talks specifically about the importance of wild, natural places in childrens' lives. While it is good to have more parks and soccer fields in our towns, it is the natural woods and wild places that kids gravitate to. It is where they learn most. In a wild ecosystem, one can really see the interactions between living things and perhaps just be in wonder and amazement. For so many of us in Floyd, we know what a treasure our wild lands are.

Here at Blue Mountain School we have such sweet land for kids to be a part of and connect to. What a tremendous thing! Not only can they explore the woods and open land as part of imaginative play, but we as teachers use this land to teach and just be. Every Tuesday when I teach, before the early learners come to class, I hear kids coming out of the woods -- rain, snow or sun. Their Outdoor Explore time is an important part of their class. Each class at BMS has their own way of being with our land and exploring.

Yoga means "union." We talk about this in a few different ways in our classes. One way is to reflect on how we are truly part of and connected to this wider earth. We depend on everything around us to survive. We practice this in yoga by bowing in the beginning and end of class every day. Bowing humbles us and helps us remember we really are grateful for all of life that sustains us. We also do Savasana; we lay down and relax our muscles and mind in quiet. It is another moment to feel our union with all of life.

Doing yoga outside has a magic of its own. As we do poses, the sun is out, the air is in on our skin, and we hear the marvelous sounds around us. Yay for spring!

We took a nature walk in all the classes a few weeks ago. It was the very beginning of spring so we did something a bit different.   Small groups did a nature treasure hunt and found different signs and parts of nature. I also asked each person to find something they have never seen before in nature. This trains our senses to go beyond. We found mycorizia, hairy predator scat, buds on trees, an interesting beetle, and other neat things.

The more time I spend at BMS, the more I treasure our relationship with the land around us and how that infuses into what we teach. I see how our staff connects with the natural world in their own ways and how they each have special ways of sharing that with students.

In this day with so much technology around us, we are growing farther away from the natural and gentle rhythms of life as a society. Sometimes I think the greatest thing we can give our kids is a reconnection with the natural world around us. We are doing that at BMS.

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