Saturday, February 15, 2020

Linking Nature, People, & Mindfulness

I spent last weekend in my happy place--soaking up loads of goodies at the 35th annual Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education Conference. 2 days of eco-goodies and loads of learning makes for a happy me. Thinking back in time, this is probably my 6th time attending over the course of the last 15 or so years. My typical partners in crime weren't with me, so it was a solo venture, which tied well to its theme: "Exploring Connections: Linking Nature, People, and Mindfulness." I got some quality, necessary time to myself this weekend as well.

My workshops over the two days filled a notebook of notes and included over 8 workshops and keynotes along with loads of conversation. The only problem with an event like this is that there are too few hours in the schedule as too many of the workshops are all stacked at the same time. Some of my big take-aways were:
  • From the "Nature Rocks: Health Benefits of the Outdoors" workshop (presented by Dr. Stacy Beller Stryer and Melanie Parker), it reiterated all of the good stuff that being outdoors brings.  
    • Nature lowers:
      • anxiety & depression
      • cortisol levels and stress
      • blood pressure
      • risk of type 2 diabetes
      • behavior issues
      • even mortality!
    • It improves:
      • resilience, sense of well being, rejuvenation
      • physical activity and BMI
      • concentration and attentiveness
      • creativity
      • enjoyment
      • academic performance and test scores
      • socialization & cooperation
  • From Coreen Weilmeister (from the Education Coordinator at Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve) talk on "The Future Needs Creativity," it reiterated my sentiment that innovation is what we need to solve our environmental issues!
  • Kids (and adults) have a lack of connection to themselves and their environments, which can create a sense of apathy toward communities. When we are connected to neighborhoods, we're better connected to the world. Nature and mindfulness can lead you there, strengthening empathy.
  • Nature is the antidote to both ours and our kids' technology "over-connection" (where the average kid spends 6 hours on devices! They should be out in nature double their tech time!)
  • Play is essential to learning and making things stick--you can certainly take things outdoors! 
  • The same is true with music. Two sessions were on music (I only attended one) and it reminded me of all my past musical, educational, and environmental experiences with Linda Richards.
  • Sometimes bringing the tech outdoors is a great way to involve young students in documenting their surroundings.
  • Even in urban environments, there are opportunities to unite nature (even if it's in your own classroom) and mindfulness.

Some of the things I definitely want to check into even more--who knows, these might all make for future posts here at GTG!
Even in writing just this and taking the time to reflect on all of this, I can see I still need to sit with my notes, soaking it up more. It has left me craving for more. A good conference can do that to you!!

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