Broadly, the topics that interest me are water, health, and leadership. Specifically, I'm focused on changing conversations around the true value of ocean, lakes, rivers, and wildlife; adoption, wellness, and emotional health; leadership, change, creativity, and neuroscience. Oh, and sea turtles.
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Last week while visiting Pittsburgh to speak as part of the Green Building Alliance’s Inspire Speaker Series I had the opportunity to spend the day with a group of educators working with GBA on a Green Schools initiative. I’ll state it right up front: my goal was to add some Blue to the Green and that idea was met with much enthusiasm and support.
How can we introduce Blue Mind to schools? What would a Blue Schools initiative look like? What small steps could be taken immediately and with a small budget of say twelve dollars?
The educators creatively answered these questions and more. Here are some of the responses:
“I want to put a water fountain in my classroom to help children feel peaceful through hearing the sound of water.”
“My school is blessed with the formation of a small pond in the center of our campus. I teach canoeing and kayaking as a PE unit. Often times, being so focussed on the skills/safety of the activity I neglect the opportunity to just allow the students to be engaged with the water on their terms. After today I plan to build in more time for play and solitude, and to touch the water and splash and to just “be present”…without correcting their cross draw stroke!”
“We can create more ways to find uses for classroom sink waste water. We can also make more metal and physical space at school for curiosity and meditation.”
“I think educating our students on current and potential ways we use, experience, learn, feel and play with water in our school would bring recognition of water in their everyday lives and teach them how to respect water and understand our urban environment.”
“I want to use grey water, get rain barrels in our community garden. Then our students can be more involved with the garden, by watering it also.”
“I will incorporate water and the emotions it stimulates in the classroom by purchasing a small fountain.”
“I have always believed that to get our children to want to make an impact and/or to improve environmental health they have to have an emotional connection with nature. This begins with getting students outside. We are fortunate to have a pond on our campus and streams nearby. One of my daughter’s most memorable experiences at our school was when we allowed all of her classmates to put on bathing suits and jump into the pond. They swam around for an hour, laughing and screaming with joy. I would like to continue this tradition with all of our classes.”
“There is a conservation area/park adjacent to our school with a little stream in it. I could institute a weekly hike for my third graders so they get the immersion experience (a little blue space anyways). It would become a routine, one that I now see as necessary. We could do a school wide honoring of students’ outdoor experiences that had them feeling awe, joy, etc. and feature their writings and art all around the building.”
“Develop and implement Blue Mind activities in university courses, professional workshops, and community programming. Develop and implement “wellness” concentration in our university that spans ecological and human health sciences.”
“As we create field trip and other k-12 outreach programming we should make emotional lessons an intro into STEM activities and train our students (who will be our teachers) to have a blue mind as they approach their teaching and lesson planning.”
“Create one capstone course that completes one academic requirement for every major subject that semester so that it effectively integrates with math, science, english, art, etc. The course focuses on experiential / service learning in the landscape / community. Each course begins by walking, boating, examining the local watershed of the community and then explores the community’s relationship or disconnection to the watershed. Each course must construct some object that functionally celebrates, reemphasizes or restores a connection that engages some key constituency within the watershed.”
“I have a beautiful pond just outside my window. I am going to use the space around the pond to inspire the children as they draw and write. I am going to plan writing lessons centered around the pond.”
“The message that resonates with me right now is facilitating authentic experiences for students in order to help them build a love of and passion for water. Successful environments for learning include touch and the full range of human senses. Touching the water creates a connection to water.”
“I will walk away with a focus on how to use water as a therapeutic experience for my students. We typically visit the creek at least once a week, but accessing the release of stress when we need it, rather than randomly, would be awesome.”
“I think that finding a way to celebrate water on an urban campus might come in many forms, but having some kind of art exhibit of student work that highlights the connection we have to water as part of our community would be cool! This would be different from other exhibits of this nature, though. I would pair students with faculty and staff and after some curriculum work with design and systems-based thinking about the use of water on campus, each pair would work together to create a “piece” that best reflects a celebration of our use of water. It could be a photo, poem, 3d sculpture, lesson plan, etc. The novelty is the student-staff pairing. They would be present together at an opening to celebrate the collaborative nature of our reverence for water.”
“I will use the blue marble activity with my 6th grade students to engage in a conversation about awe and gratitude.”
“My students are inner city youth that probably never set foot in water other than the shower. I would love to take them on field trips to Point State Park, North Park Lake or Lake Auther. They would benefit greatly by experiences of the blue mind.”
“At our school we do a great job with food ed and connection to water in our green spaces but I think we could connect our students that intern in the lunch room/kitchen to the role water plays in food prep. Every day we’re cleaning, washing, wiping, rinsing and using water - but it is so routine that it isn’t acknowledged or conserved. This idea of tuning in to water waste could be student centered and managed.”
“A quick easy, free method would be to play the sounds of waves crashing during a free-write. I used to do this all the time with ambient, symphonic, classical music but never dream=ed of using the sounds of water in my classroom. Now it seems like an obvious win!”
“As a physical education teacher I would love to have a water fountain outside for the students to use. As a program I would love to implement fishing skills, kayaking and water skills as much as possible. Living on the Outer Banks it’s engrained in me about ocean and sport as well as food, so living in Pittsburgh it’s my challenge to get our students in and around the water—not just swimming pools.”
“A pond for students to study ecology. Water feature or small fountains in cafeteria or classrooms for the sound of water. Rain barrels for watering gardens.”
“It’s a bit difficult to answer for a school-wide implementation as I’m not in a position of “educator” per se. But I have already at home one of those little electric waterfalls that are sold for their relaxation value. I think perhaps one of these in each classroom—or a larger one in common areas—could bring the benefits into the building.”
“We went on a mission to add sustainability (using LEED) to our building projects and renovation activities. Included is water efficiency and sustainable site development. From a technical standpoint, the district’s 14 facilities have saved over $5m through behavioral practices in water and energy efficiency alone. In the past decade adding LEED project and smart renovations has made us bluer and greener. The blue mind is already at work and will continue to be in the future.”
“Our school is on 8 acres with a vibrant pond at its epicenter. As a graduating gift we ant 5th grader students to jump into the pond after the traditional moving up ceremony and connect with the water they have been learning from and around for 7 years.”
“I am a Montessori teacher for toddlers so we already include water activities that are accessible to the children like shell or pumpkin washing or setting up two small cups for pouring water back and forth. I would like to try playing the sound of the ocean for the toddlers to listen to or having a running fountain in the room for them to explore. Toddlers love water!”
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