Mindfulness Practices for Environmental Education

As an environmental educator and yoga teacher-in-training I LOVE incorporating mindfulness practices into outdoor programs. I believe that encouraging mindfulness in nature helps students of all ages to become present in both time and place. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a quiet moment out on the hiking trail to listen for birds. Other times I plan an entire kid-friendly yoga sequence with poses that represent native wildlife (bobcat and cow, copperhead instead of cobra, etc.). We always end our sun salutations by yelling “GOOD MORNING!” to the sun. It’s great fun!

I put together this list of resources so environmental educators can help their students experience the benefits of mindful moments in nature:

Books for Kids

Yoga Frog by Nora Carpenter, illustrated by Mark Chambers. This is a favorite of mine. I have led many, successful amphibian-themed story times using this book and the little, bendy frog figurine that comes with it. It is meant to be read aloud as the poses are practiced. Very charming for all ages. Pictures below are of Yoga Frog in action!

Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More by Mallika Chopra, illustrated by Brenna Vaughan. Aimed at ages 8-12, this book includes mindful walking, a cloud meditation, and a meditation for the planet. It’s a unique book for a somewhat-neglected age group as far as mindfulness resources go.

You are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo is meant to be read aloud as the yoga is practiced and is appropriate for pre-K students.

Imagine That! A Child’s Guide to Yoga by Kenneth K. Cohen, illustrated by Joan Hyme. This book includes sun salutation sequence and in-depth instructions for a variety of poses, but you can also just read the short rhyme on each page.

Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-By-Pose Wake Up Story by Mariam Gates, illustrated by Sarah Jane Hinder. This book would be a great start to a day outside, for ages 4-8. There are two text options depending on the level of detail the reader prefers. Poses are nature-related with an ‘explorer’ theme.

Yoga Friends: A Pose-By Pose Partner Adventure for Kids by Mariam Gates & Rolf Gates, illustrated by Sarah Jane Hinder. This one is similar to Good Morning Yoga but for partners. There is less nature-related content, but it would be fun to adapt for environmental programs.

Books for Adults

Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, & Evan McGown. This book is amazing and I can’t believe it took me years working in the field of environmental education to discover it. It’s basically an entire teaching philosophy with supporting activities that integrate perfectly with yoga and mindfulness practices.

Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community. This book has a whole section on connecting with nature including nature mandalas and a web-of-life activity. It comes with a CD of songs, which I thought it was silly until I listened- there are a few gems on there, like ‘I Love Nature’ by Joe Reilly, if you can find a CD player…

Meditation for Children: Pathways to Happiness, Harmony, Creativity & Fun for the Family by Deborah Rozman, Ph.D. While meant more for families than classrooms indoor or out, this book has useful sections on how to meditate with children and chapters with yoga and meditation exercises for different age groups, including a ‘grass meditation’ to experience oneness with life.

Mindfulness Practices: Cultivating Heart Centered Communities Where Students Focus and Flourish by Christine MasonMichele M. Rivers Murphy, and Yvette Jackson. I haven’t finished this one yet, but the lead author was my yoga teacher in addition to being the Founder and CEO of the Center for Educational Improvement. More to come!

Forest Bathing by Dr. Cyndi Gilbert, ND includes a great exercise called ‘tree breathing’ that could be adapted for practice with children.

Yoga Games for Children: Fun and Fitness with Postures, Movements, and Breath by Danielle Bersma & Marjoke Visscher, illustrated by Alex Kooistra. This book includes multiple nature-related activities such as ‘blowing leaves,’ ‘animal sounds,’ and a sun salutation diagram with a cute rhyme. For ages 3-12.

Additional Resources and Activities

Imagine You Are A Frog is a free, guided meditation for children from Fragrant Heart, an all free meditation website offering over 100 guided audios as well as simple step by step instructions to learn to meditate.

Classroom Meditation- For All Ages! on the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel includes a great example of a short and simple breath-focused meditation that can be practiced with children.

The Kid’s Yoga Deck: 50 Poses and Games by Annie Buckley was a favorite with my summer campers who LOVED the chance to ‘pick a card’ and instruct peers on the next pose.

Mindful Kids: 50 Mindfulness Activities for Kindness, Focus, and Calm by Whitney Stewart and Mina Brown

Mindful Games: Activity Cards by Susan Kaiser Greenland with Annaka Harris

To encourage students to embody the experience of being a lemur compared to a squirrel (through the study of hand anatomy), use this Lemur Lesson Plan by Alison Zak for Grades K-4

 

If you have anything to add, please let me know. I plan to update this page as I explore new resources.

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Morning nature yoga by the pond: Downward facing coyote 🙂