Clinical trial. Deductible. Dosing. Pre-op. Protocol. Blood work. If you are familiar with any of these terms, you’ve likely had some encounter with health care services in the United States. However, the traditional medical model – a condition-focused, interventional approach controlled by clinical providers – toward health and wellness has been challenged. In seeking recovery via alternative models, Americans are exploring options beyond the doctor’s office. The Ann Arbor area is a nexus for many of these resources, including Grass Lake Sanctuary, a nature-focused retreat space in Manchester that has served the region for over ten years.
Imagine a group of four-year-olds sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, listening intently to the sound of a chime. As the ringing stops, the children’s hands rise from their laps and settle on their bellies. They breathe in… and then out. When their eyes open, they share how they’re feeling. “Calm.” “Tired.” “Hungry!” This is how my preschool mindfulness classes begin. While it may be hard to imagine, kids as young as three can become mindfulness practitioners! Basic mindfulness skills taught at an early age can help young children to stay healthy and balanced as they grow.
The concept of forest schools originated in Denmark in 1950. Children who attended Forest Kindergartens emerged with stronger social skills, higher self-esteem, and worked more effectively in group activities. The children were confident and behavioral problems were fewer. It soon became a permanent addition to Denmark’s early childhood curriculum. Not long after Denmark discovered the value of educating children outdoors, Sweden’s “Skogsmulle” concept was developed, a similar educational model that taught children about nature, water, mountains, and ecology. The outcomes were measurable and overwhelmingly positive, making nature and forest schools popular with teachers, children, and parents. The idea soon spread to other areas of Europe.
My relationship with natural building started in 1996 when I took a 3-week course from the Cob Cottage Company on the West coast. It was a life-shaping experience in living and building with others, filled with the use of natural materials harvested from the land, food from the garden, bread from the earth oven, evening music, and camping. I came back to Michigan with the advice of my teacher, Ianto, to build with strawbales in this cold climate. I met up with Fran Lee who lived on rural land outside Oxford with her brother and sister-in-law, and together we set out to create a structure that feels like a hug. Inspired by the books Places for the Soul by Christopher Day and Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, we set out on a journey that came to include Carolyn Koch, Gregie Mathews, volunteers, and experts as we practiced the ways of stone, wood, reed, straw bale, and earth. Strawbale Studio became the work of many hands and a labor of love created with much time and perseverance. A small building is a good place to start!
Many of today’s cohousing communities are designed to be microcosms. Members often get together to share regularly scheduled meals and engage in social activities such as games, movies, and various projects in shared spaces. At Sunward Cohousing in Ann Arbor, gathering for fun or to share meals in the Common House is part of what defines this community.
Bringing Mindfulness to Students and Educators: MC4ME – The Michigan Collaborative for Mindfulness in Education Has Been Leading the Charge
Almost three years ago I wrote about the work of transforming schools with mindfulness practices in Michigan for the Crazy Wisdom Journal. So many amazing moments have happened since then! School communities—students, staff, administrators, and parents alike, are beginning to understand how essential mindfulness skills are to the embodiment of social emotional learning (SEL) skills and to facilitating learning.
In this column, Crysta Coburn writes about crazywisdom-esque people and happenings around Ann Arbor. This issue features local blogger Chrissy Barua, Author Judy Wenzel, and owner of Petals + Butters, , Sri Lankipalli.
Lifting the Spirit and Educating Well-Rounded Students —The Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor Comes of Age, and Expands
Since its inception in 1980, The Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor has flown mostly under the radar, but its popularity has also been steadily growing over the years. Named after German philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the school uses his philosophy of child development and ideas about well-rounded human beings to provide students with a holistic and age-specific education. One of over 1,000 Steiner-influenced “Waldorf schools” in 60 countries (there are 150 in North America), the schools are renowned for their emphasis on music and the arts, their original approach to the teaching of the sciences, and their celebration of nature, childhood play, and seasonal rituals.