The Water Lily Way

A school counselor's story of how to live, work and play…the water lily way


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School Counseling Connections: Integrating the Outdoors into your School Counseling Program

 

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I think we can all advocate for kiddo’s needing time outdoors! Truly, we all can benefit from time spent outside and in nature. I may have a bit of Wisconsin spring fever right now, but as the weather continues getting nicer, I am challenging myself to find more and more activities that can be done with children out in the sunshine and fresh air. There are so many ways we can work with student’s outdoors as we would inside our school walls, however outdoor time may actually result in additional benefits for our young ones. For instance…

Exercise, movement, physical activity!
Playing outside provides children with something many children don’t get enough of anymore – exercise. Exercising while having fun is the best kind of exercise! Walk and talks can be exchanged for sitting in chairs with students during individual meetings. Team building activities can be utilized during classroom guidance and small groups. Check out the WLW pinterest to see specific team building exercises to use outdoors.

Stimulation of the Imagination
As expectations for students increase in our schools, our student’s imaginations, creativity and freedom of expression are decreasing. Our children are not discovering and experiencing things on their own, rather they are being shown, taught, and instructed. Likewise, growing up in a society that is so consumed in technology does not help with this challenge. Playing outside helps children develop their imagination, which is something that television, video games, computers, iPods, etc. can’t do. Children tend to feel more comfortable outdoors, which allows them to “invent and create things,” once again stimulating their imagination.

Improves self-confidence and social skills

Outdoor play encourages children to risk. Children try different experiences which they normally wouldn’t and grow to be stronger and more confident individuals as a result. Children feel a sense of safety outdoors, which allows them to feel in control and promotes autonomy. Group activities, games, and sports help children learn how to solve problems with their peers. They learn to work together, compromise and communicate with one another.

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Here are some different ways you can incorporate “the great outdoors” into your school counseling program:

  • Walk and talks: Why always sit in chairs with students? Going outdoors allows for exercise, fresh air and increases alertness. The outdoors brings a sense of calmness, relaxation and safety. Isn’t this what we hope to provide to our students as we build relationships with them? Walking side by side helps diminish any sense of hierarchy.
  • Take the sandtray outside!! Sit in the grass with a child as you talk and play with the sand (really, any game/toy/etc. of your choice could be taken outdoors… 🙂 )
  • Journal time: Students may find calmness in journaling outdoors. Allowing for free time to journal at the beginning or end of time with a student(s) encourages autonomy, creativity and independence.
  • Yoga! There is no better place to practice yoga than out in nature…Take your class or group outdoors and see how the change in environment impacts the student’s practice.
  • Termination: For your last session with a student or group of students, encourage students to find rocks out in the school yard to decorate. With either paint/marker have them write words that describe what they learned from your time together, or what they are taking with them as a result of your time together .
  • Deep breathing/mindfulness with bubbles! Check out the link for a fun and soothing activity using bubbles.
  • Planting a flower/plant/etc. with a student or a group of student’s to increase cohesiveness and support the relationship(s) being built.
  • Sidewalk chalk: Sidewalk chalk can replace all sorts of art therapy activities that are typically done “indoors.”

Examples include:

  1. Encouraging students to write strengths/things they like about themselves(This could be done over the course of a day or two with multiple students/groups. It could be an empowering area that would be on showcase for all students in the school to see, names not included obviously.)
  2. Have students draw how they are feeling and suggest that different colors demonstrate different feelings/emotions.
  3. Free draw!
  4. Hopscotch! Why not play a game while chatting away?!

Now let’s hope for some sunshine and enjoyable spring temps the rest of the week… 🙂 -Jessica

 

 

 

 

 


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Blogs, Resources, Websites & More…

Hi All,
Here’s a list of some of my favorite blogs, websites, and resources. I’ll be updating these frequently, so stay tuned… Enjoy. 🙂  -Jessica
School Counseling Blogs
School Counseling Websites
Comprehensive School Counseling Programs: Program Development, Implementation, Evaluation, etc.
Mindfulness
Play Therapy
Counseling and Such
Mental Health
Nutrition & Physical Wellness


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Monday Mindfulness: 5 reasons why I’ve come to love yoga & all of it’s benefits…

Monday Mindfulness

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1.)    Improved flexibility, yes. Improved strength, YES!!!!!! I think a lot of people have the assumption that yoga is solely for stretching purposes, for stress relief, or for relaxation. While it is definitely all of these things, I think what people don’t realize is how much yoga can increase strength! I can’t say that I always push myself hard enough when I’m exercising that my body shakes! Yet, I find myself shaking at some point during EVERY yoga class I attend. Yes, yoga improves flexibility. Yes, yoga is relaxing, it reduces stress, and it’s great for increased flexibility. However, when you are holding warrior 1/2 or crow pose for minutes, or flowing through your sun salutations and doing numerous chaturanga’s in 10 minutes, strength is the word that comes to my mind… Holding yoga postures lengthen and strengthen our muscles.

2.)    There are racquetball courts next to us? I’ve probably been practicing yoga for 5 or 6 years, but I’ve been attending classes regularly in the past year, and I can tell a difference when it comes to reflecting on my increased self-awareness, focus and mindfulness. I practice yoga at a ymca, and the yoga room is literally between a racquet ball court and the cycle studio. You might be thinking, “How can that be peaceful?” The truth is, I forget all about it! As the class wraps us and the instructor instructs us to “bring back our awareness,” I am immediately reminded of what is actually around me, and what I was able to block out for one hour. Not only am I able to forget about the things going on around me, I’m able to leave whatever I may have going on for me at the door. Yoga teaches us to quiet the mind.

3.)    Importance of breath. A key component to practicing yoga is breath. This is not something that came easy to me when I first began. It is not often that we focus on our breath, and I think this is why I first struggled with this. I am beginning to now understand the importance in focusing on my breath to get me through a pose. Not only that, but concentrating on my breathing encourages me to be more in the present moment and bring all of my awareness to my mat. While we may leave our “yoga practice” on our mats at the end of a class, our yoga skills stay with us each day…Yoga teaches us to focus on our breathing which brings us to the present, and also has health benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety.

4.)    Options for being challenged. I think most yogi’s would agree with me on this one, EVERY yoga class is DIFFERENT! There are SO many options as far as styles of yoga practice (hatha, ashtanga, bikram, hot yoga, vinyasa, the list goes on and on). And that’s just talking the different types of yoga classes. Instructors are all different and unique. And even if you go to the same instructor all the time, there so many variations for formatting yoga classes. With that said, the chance of getting bored with yoga is very unlikely, and the change of you being challenged (mentally/physically) each time you practice yoga, you know the answer… 😉 Yoga challenges the body and mind. There are different yoga class styles for everyone.

5.)    Encourages overall health and wellness –for life. Yoga is not just about exercising, it’s about living a healthy life style. The breathing and meditation that is encouraged during yoga practice is something we can incorporate into our everyday lives. The peace and tranquility we can achieve when we quiet our minds, allow us to be still in an often times crazy world. Yoga helps us decrease our stress, and allows us time for ourselves. Yes, that’s right, YOU time.  Yoga is a lifelong gift that increases health and wellness.

It’s time for bed yogi’s. Have a great Tuesday. -Jessica

 


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Monday Mindfulness: Peaceful Piggy Yoga

For this week’s Monday Mindfulness, I am excited to share with you a new book I purchased at the WSCA conference I attended earlier in February. The book is called “Peaceful Piggy Yoga” and it is written by Kerry Lee MacLean. The author is a yoga instructor and also a children’s meditation therapist. In “Peaceful Piggy Yoga,” children are introduced to a variety of basic yoga poses while following along with a story that mentions all the people who practice yoga (moms, dads, football players, PIGGIES!).

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Every Wednesday, I spend an hour at an elementary afterschool program. There is usually around 3-6 kids each week, so it’s a pretty small group! Working with such a small number of kids really allows me to focus on reaching the kid’s needs during the hour we are together each week. My little girls usually like more “structured” arts & crafts, while my boys just run for my play tote and pull out all the cars, army men and dinosaurs they can find! I didn’t know how they would respond to “Peaceful Piggy Yoga,” but I figured I would try it out!

When I was in college I taught yoga to four second grade classrooms at an elementary school in La Crosse. I co-led the class with three other girls in my major. It was so neat to see how much the kids enjoyed coming and spending 45 minutes practicing yoga with us each week. We were definitely known as the “yoga ladies” by all the students at the school. When they saw us carrying our mats in, they knew exactly who we were and that it was yoga day! Having this experience during college made me more comfortable and confident that my afterschool kids would also enjoy doing a little yoga.

I can’t say that our yoga practice that day was like most yoga classes -and by that I mean there wasn’t too much tranquility in my classroom… But, I promise you, the kids were enjoying it! And they were DOING yoga! I started out reading the story and the instructions for the yoga poses to the kids. As I read, they tried to do the poses. I couldn’t believe how many of the poses they already knew! They were in tree pose before I could even give the first instruction! One of the little girls said that she used to take a yoga for kids class. I LOVED hearing this! Anyways, they eventually decided they wanted to take turns reading poses to each other. The “calmness” started to decline around this time, but I can’t turn children down when they want to read (especially since I have such a small group of kids typically). Also, my time at the afterschool program is for them, and I like the hour to be full of activities and games that THEY want to do. They enjoyed instructing each other and trying out some poses they already knew and also some that were new to them. My little yogi’s probably spent around 30 minutes reading and practicing along with the book, which I was quite pleased about.

You can purchase the “Peaceful Piggy Yoga” on amazon. The paperback version is only $6.30, which is right around what I spent. Such a GREAT deal… 🙂

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http://www.amazon.com/Peaceful-Piggy-Yoga-Kerry-Maclean/dp/080756382X

~Namaste~