Breathing, writing, and arithmetic

One of the most interesting field trips I can remember from grade school was technically not that interesting at all. It was actually the least eventful field trip I’d ever been on. But because of this, it may have been the most unique.

Our teacher walked us in a big group to a beach just a short distance from our school, leading us down to the sandy, pebbled shore of Lake Michigan. Instead of going swimming or building sand castles, she told us all to find a spot to stand or sit still where we wouldn’t be distracted by each other, and simply listen. The goal was to remain silent and be aware of our surroundings, and not say anything for 20 minutes.

For what felt like forever, I sat on a log and listened to the blue-grey waves unfolding rhythmically upon the shore, washing over bits of driftwood and stone, and ebbing back into the lake. I used every ounce of my abilities not to look at my friends and inadvertently set off a giggle-fest in the middle of it all.

When the time was up, I was completely relieved that I could talk again, and was filled with the odd sensation that I had experienced nothing and everything all at once. (To be honest, I also felt slightly ripped off, considering we could have gone on a field trip to the art museum or the zoo instead.)

Although I didn’t know the word for it at the time, that field trip had been an exercise in mindfulness, a practice that’s proving to have more and more positive effects on children when taught in school. Breathing exercises can help increase attention span and boost academic performance. Empathy and gratitude can foster happiness and a more compassionate view of ourselves and others. And sensory explorations can help infuse a greater sense of awareness and wonder in our physical surroundings.

Earlier this year, we had the wonderful opportunity to help design the Beginner’s Mind Toolkit, an educational package aimed at helping educators teach mindfulness techniques to children ages 5-11. The project involved logo design, illustration, layout and packaging. We always love working on projects that resonate with us on a personal level and have the potential to impact lives positively (and even more so when glitter is involved). Looking back, as much as a trip to the zoo would have been cool, I’m happy I experienced those 20 minutes of mindfulness on the beach.

Get more details on purchasing a Beginner’s Mind toolkit.