My animal

ValueEthical & Social
OverviewSelf-care is a skill that helps us take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, but also spiritually. Children live in a very fast paced world, just like we adults do, in which very often, a day is not enough to fill all of their obligations. School, homework, training, additional language and so on… Taking time for yourself to feel the needs of your body and emotions is a skill that can be taught. It also needs tools - how to do it. Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. Being mindful means being aware, taking note of what is going on within ourselves and outside in the world, without avoiding information or feelings we do not like or do not wish to be true. It can be defined as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally. Mindfulness can be developed through meditation and other contemplative practices like guided visualization. “Environmental mindfulness” refers to the practice of mindfulness applied to the natural environment, in the sense that the practice of mindfulness can help cultivate a non-dualistic consciousness, it can lead to compassionate attitudes, conduct towards the other-than-human and, contribute to support a transition towards sustainability.
Learning objectivesTo practice being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment.
Skills developedObservation skills, Breathing skills, Sharpening the senses
MethodDialogue, Guided visualization
This activity would be performed better outdoors, in the school garden or if there is a park near school. But it can also be implemented in the classroom.
Make sure the children are comfortable and relaxed while sitting in the circle.
Ask them, if they were an animal, what animal would they be and why?
Follow up the dialogue with sub-questions:
❖     How does it communicate?
❖     How does it move?
Children can answer these questions verbally or, even better, move and make sounds like the animal they would want to be.
❖     What does that animal eat?
❖     Does it live alone or in a group (pack, flock, herd..).
❖     What are its main senses (hearing, sight, smell, is it sensitive to a touch, taste..)?
❖     With what sense do you experience the world the most?
❖     What is your second most strongest sense?
❖     And the third?
❖     Do we (humans) rely on our senses as much as animals?
❖     Are our senses as strong as the senses of your animal?
If a child chooses an animal that lacks or has a poor certain sense (for example a mole has very bad sight), ask them which other sense(s) compensate(s) for it. They can also imagine how strong that other sense needs to be for animals to move and hunt.
❖     If you experienced the world through your animal sense, how different would your experience be?
Tell the children you will dive in a visualization with the help of their chosen animal and try to experience the world through its senses.
Ask the children to unfold their mats and lie on their backs. They can lie wherever they feel confident, but not too far, so they can hear the instructions.
Explain that during the visualization you will ask questions, but they don’t need to answer out loud. They can just imagine the answers for themselves.
When guiding children through visualization, speak with natural and pleasant voice and with pauses between each instruction:
- Close your eyes and relax your jaw.
- Take a deep breath through your nose. Hold it for a little bit and exhale through your mouth.
- Relax your arms. Your legs. Your neck and head.
- Feel your spine sinking into the ground.
- Take a deep breath into your belly and chest. Feel your pulse inside your body. Exhale through your mouth.
- Feel how your thoughts are clearing and all you can hear is my voice.
- Take a deep breath through your nose one more time and when you exhale, let all your thoughts out.
- You are relaxed and comfortable.
- Now, imagine your animal.
- What does it look like?
- What are its colours?
- Is it moving or standing?
- Greet your animal.
- Ask it politely if you could borrow its senses.
- See how it presents them to you.
- Notice your breathing.
- With every breath your senses are getting stronger.
- And stronger.
- Now smell the air around you.
- What do you smell?
- Can you smell the grass? (ask them for different smells that are in your location)
- Do you like it? How does it make you feel?
- What do you hear around you?
- Are those sounds pleasant? Are they full of life? (ask them for different sounds that are in your location)
- Now, feel your skin touching the grass.
- Is the grass soft or sharp?
- Does it tickle?
- Notice if the soil is wet or dry.
- What do you remember seeing before you closed your eyes?
- What colours are around you?
- What kinds of trees and flowers? (ask them for different sights that are in your location)
- Imagine your eyes are open, do you see any interesting detail?
- Move your tongue a little bit. What taste do you have in your mouth?
- Is it sour, sweet, spicy or is there no taste?
- Now try to feel all of those sensations at once.
- Keep breathing.
- How do you feel?
- Stay with your senses a little bit longer, feel them and just breathe.
- Now, take a deep breath and exhale.
- Imagine your animal again.
- Thank your animal deeply for borrowing its senses and give them back with respect.
- Say goodbye to it.
- Keep breathing a little bit longer and when you are ready, start slowly moving your legs.
- First your toes, then your knees.
- Now move your fingers slowly , then your elbow.
- Keep your eyes closed.
- Take a deep breath and stretch like you are waking up.
- When you’re ready, open your eyes slowly .
- Keep your senses open and look around for a little while.
Once the children are awake, ask them how they felt.
❖     Have you experienced the world differently?
❖     What sense was most interesting for you?
❖     Have you noticed something in your surroundings that you didn’t notice before?
❖     Were you able to clear your thoughts?
❖     Did you feel calmer and more relaxed or not?
❖     Do you have a deeper/clearer perspective of the animal you imagined?
After the discussion, tell the children they can do this exercise every once in a while. To focus on the world around them through their senses and relax through breathing.
TipsAdditional materialsHow to apply online?What to do at home?
If you are doing this exercise online, tell children to put on their headphones. Then, while you are guiding visualization, you can put nature sounds in the background. The sounds can be accompanied with gentle music.
Further readings:
AuthorMarija Kragić, Ivana Kragić
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