My six-year-old daughter started school this week. Like many caregivers and parents, I am faced with the anxiety and uncertainty about schooling for the near and long term. One of my greatest worries is: How does a small, highly energetic, active person stay physically engaged in the virtual learning space? To best support my daughter and ease my anxiety, I leaned into my Outward Bound training.
In my Being Outward Bound blog series, I’ve been writing about the Domains of Thriving (DoT): Belonging, Courage, Reflection, and Physical Engagement. The DoT is based on a research-based model of youth development. It was created to identify the specific things OB instructors do to create an environment for social and emotional development. As our youth are navigating remote learning, doing what we can to ensure that they are staying physically engaged is imperative. So let’s look at how these lessons from the field translate to this virtual world.
At Outward Bound we define Physical Engagement as experiencing and expressing oneself through the body and its senses. Physical movement is, of course, a key component to this domain, however, it goes beyond this to include cultivating a sense of emotional reaction and awareness in one’s body. Where do enthusiasm and energy exist in the body and how can it be leveraged when we connect to it? Keywords to think about physical engagement are self-regulation, physical confidence, sensations, and energy.
Katie Dalbey, of the Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab, has worked to train OB staff and educators on the DoT. She says “noticing is the most important and accessible thing here – just starting to put words to their physical sensations and emotions.”
So what does Physical Engagement look like in a virtual space?
Here are a few tips and tools that we can use with our children or the youth we work with that focus on the STOP acronym:
- Sensations – Notice what you are feeling, seeing, tasting, and smelling
- Take a break – Pause to breathe
- Observe how you are regulating energy and coping with challenges
- Practice expressing emotions and self-regulation skills
Some Things to Try:
- Begin each transition or activity with a check-in question involving the body. Ex: “Show us with your body how you are feeling today.”
- Have students gain awareness of body position and location
- Are you sitting, standing, hunched over?
- Are your feet touching the ground?
- Where are your shoulders – raised or lowered?
- Take a 1-3 minute pause for breathing at the beginning, middle, or end of a session
- Have students notice sensations in their body (hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling)
- What are the sounds in the room?
- Are you hot, cold, sweaty? Is your heart beating fast or is your stomach growling?
- What do you see around you?
- Is it bright or dark in the room?
- Incorporate a stretch break or quick 1-2 minute energizer or body shakeout
- Use music to shift energy or change the sound during or before a break.
- Use virtual break out rooms or groups for different types of physical and kinesthetic activities
I think the best thing that we as parents, caregivers, and educators can do for each other and the young people in our lives is to continue to support each other. As we’ve seen through our virtual series about the DoT, the Thriving Classroom, cultivating a sense of belonging, staying physically engaged, having courageous conversations, and making space for self-reflection in a virtual environment is possible. I am in this with you every day working on educating my first grader in this new and challenging world. Let’s keep sharing tools and learning together. Email me your favorite tools and resources at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!
If you are an educator or parent and want more resources on building the Outward Bound Domains of Thriving, into your classroom, using the Thriving Classroom series, please reach out to my colleague, Eli Fox, [email protected] for more information.