A Walk in the Woods: Nature and the Practice of Mindfulness in early Childhood Education
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Alongside the growing body of research on nature in education, there is a predilection for the implementation of mindfulness-based strategies in the classroom. The research on mindfulness, however, is notably limited when it comes to mindfulness practices in early childhood education. Moreover, school implementation focuses on the addition of mindfulness-based curriculum, rather than the thoughtful construction of an environment that can best encourage and develop the practice of mindfulness. This action research took place at a public Montessori charter school in a midwestern town. The school's Children's House, consisting of 40 students, 4-6 years of age, hikes and explores the surrounding woods twice a week. In an effort to examine the relationship between time spent in nature, at school, and the possible impacts on children's wellbeing and the classroom environment, this study used both qualitative and quantitative tools. After charting classroom engagement ("focus"); gathering anecdotal evidence; interviewing children and staff; and conducting parent surveys, the collected data indicates that time spent in nature is both beneficial (especially to children who struggle in a conventional school setting) and desired by the school community. This study contends that providing access to nature, instead of a structured implementation of a mindfulness curriculum, might be an important component to consider when designing or espousing educational practices that cultivate mindfulness within early childhood classrooms.