Regular readers of the blog will know that twice I have selected a title for the slowchathealth Book of the Month that has related to walking. Firstly Born to Walk by Dan Rubinstein, and most recently 52 Ways to Walk by Annabel Streets, in which the author states:
It’s time to rethink walking, to reclaim it from our molecular memories. Walking is not – and has never been – boring. There are hundreds of ways to walk and hundreds of reasons for doing so.Annabel Streets
I’m fortunate to teach in a neighborhood surrounded by attractive houses, well kept landscaping, quiet roads with sidewalks, and Lake Michigan just two blocks away. At a time when my school is undergoing major construction of our PE facilities, and while the weather is cooperating, it makes sense for me to take my classes out into the community to be active. Like Annabel Streets, I, too, know that walking is not boring, but try telling that to my students. If I am to encourage students to embrace walking, I need to weave in reasons to walk, the benefits of walking, and make my lessons meaningful.
Inspired by Gillian Judson‘s fantastic book A Walking Curriculum. Evoking Wonder and Developing Sense of Place (K-12) any time I take my students for a walk, I have a focus, an intention, a reason for walking.
The simple act of taking a walk – a walk with a curricular focus or purpose – can have multiple positive consequences – many of which are much more profound than we ever imagine.Gillian Judson
Judson’s book contains a number of walking-focused activities that are designed to engage the body, emotions, and imagination in ways that can increase students’ familiarity with the local natural context in which they go to school. These activities increase students’ attention to detail and their emotional connection with the world that surrounds them.
Last week I took my students on a ‘Lovely/Unlovely Walk’. On our 1.5 mile walk of the neighborhood students were asked to notice things that they found lovely or pleasing. They also had to notice those things that they found to be offensive or unappealing. Students added their observations to this list.
Once we had arrived at our destination (under the shade of a very large tree) students found a partner and traded lists. They were tasked with finding the ‘lovely’ in the ‘unlovely’ list, finding ways in which the ‘unlovely’ object contributed to the world in a positive way. My favorite response came from a student who had to put a positive spin on litter. They said that “litter is a reminder that we can all do a better job of taking care of the environment, and we can start by picking up the litter and placing it in the garbage”.
One of my regular self-care practices is to listen to the Daily Jay from Jay Shetty, author of Think Like a Monk, on the Calm app. The Daily Jay, offers seven-minute daily mindfulness sessions that include an uplifting monologue, a short meditation, and an actionable life insight. The session I listened to that day, titled ‘Silver Linings’ complemented our ‘Lovely/Unlovely Walk’ and encouraged listeners to find the beauty in life’s imperfect moments. We were encouraged to look beyond the flaws and find the positive in things – find the lovely in the unlovely. Jay Shetty reminded us to see bumps in the road as opportunities, a chance to take a pause and shift our perspective. When we look for the silver lining, if we look for the positive, we’ll train our brain to see the upside in the most unlikely of situations.
The marriage of an intentional walking activity with a daily self-care practice left me feeling very positive at the end of a long school day. I hope I have many more of those this school year and that you do too.
Books mentioned in this post: