As a primary school teacher one of my favourite activities is to encourage children to write stories or poems based on their senses. The work produced by the children is always exceptional, unique and inspiring. In many ways, what the children produce through this activity is something that we as grown-ups can benefit from too, as it is essentially the art of mindfulness.
What do the children do? At the start of the lesson we take a moment to pause in our classroom and allow ourselves the time to really explore our senses.
Firstly, I ask the children to look around the classroom – to focus on one thing and really look at it. For example, the pencil on their desk – What colour is it? Is it blunt? Has it been chewed? Does it have a motif or an eraser? Does the pencil tell a story? The children spend time carefully exploring their chosen object. They can either make a sketch drawing of their object or write down a few key words to describe their object.
Next, we move on to the sounds, and I have found that this can be an incredibly powerful activity. When you ask the children to really take the time to listen it creates a moment of stillness that is not always the norm in the day to day hullabaloo of a classroom – the sound of a projector fan, the murmur of the class next door, the sound of the filter pump from the classroom pet’s fish tank. It is a deeply soothing activity and again let the children take the time to record what they hear.
This moves onto the tastes that children have in their mouths – is it the first lesson of the day? Can they taste their breakfast or their toothpaste? Can they taste the summer breeze coming in through the window? Ask children to take a sip of water from their water bottle, what does the water taste like? How does it feel? Encourage children to really engage with their sense of taste.
Taste moves very naturally onto smell… and it is amazing what you can smell in a classroom! The scent of a piece of newly, unpacked A4 paper; your school jumper; the pencil shavings in your sharpener; the faded scent of cleaning products on the desks; the distinct aroma of school dinners as they waft down the corridor from the canteen.
Lastly, encourage the children to think about how they feel in their classroom, do they feel comfortable? Are they relaxed? Are they stressed? Are they warm? Are they cold? Are they carrying any feelings in with them from playtime? Ask them how the activity of exploring their senses has made them feel?
Taking the time to engage children in their classroom experiences mindfully is one of the most powerful tools I have used as an educator. I have applied the same activity to listening to pieces of music, creatively writing about inspiring images and perhaps a little tantalisingly after we’d baked our own bread!
If you’ve not done so today, take a moment to enjoy a moment of mindfulness.