Activity time: 8 minutes
Preparation for Activity
- Familiarize yourself with the guided meditation that follows, so that you can read it smoothly. Make pauses long enough to give children time to imagine, but not so long that they lose interest.
- Identify a space where children can sit or lie down comfortably, closing their eyes if they wish, without touching others.
Description of Activity
Tell the children that we, like Beatrix Potter, can experience our connection with the web of life by both observing and imagining. Say, in your own words:
We will try using our imaginations to explore the connections that happen in nature. In different places where people, animals, and plants live, we are all connected because every living thing needs others to survive.
Ask children if they can think of examples. Suggest: When birds eat insects, that protects some plants that people and other animals eat. When rain falls from the sky, trees grow big enough to feed and shelter birds. Then say:
Scientists call these connections an "ecosystem." There are many different kinds of ecosystems, with different kinds of animals, different kinds of plants, and different connections. A rain forest is an ecosystem. A riverbank can be an ecosystem. A desert can be an ecosystem.
Let's imagine what it might feel like to be part of an ecosystem. Since Beatrix Potter spent so much of her life on the hillsides of the English Lake Country, we will try becoming a meadow.
If there is room, it may be most comfortable for children to lie down on the floor. Invite the children to close their eyes, if they are comfortable doing so. Say:
Make yourself quiet in your body and mind. Become aware of how it feels and sounds when your body breathes.
You may wish to guide them to relax and quiet each part of their bodies, from feet to head. Then, continue:
Imagine that you are in a meadow, a grassy area with only a few trees. It is a cool day, but sunny. What would it feel like to be the grass? Not to be on the grass, but to actually be the grass? Feel the sun and the breeze on your blades, your roots going down into the ground, pulling water and nutrients up into your body. Who else is around you?
Now, in your imagination, change. You are no longer the blade of grass. Now you are an ant, or another kind of bug, scurrying on or around the grass. What is your relationship to the grass? Do you eat it? Walk on it? Hide beneath it?
Once again, you are changing, becoming another member of this meadow community. Now you are a bird. Imagine spreading your wings and taking flight, ending up in a nearby giant oak tree. How does it feel to ruffle your feathers? How does the breeze affect your flying? What will you eat? Might it be the bug that you were just a minute ago? Where will you sleep?
Now change again. You take another shape, becoming much, much larger, until you are the oak tree the bird was sitting on. Feel the sun and the breeze in your leaves. How does being a tree feel different from being a blade of grass? How do your long, strong roots feel different from the little, hairlike roots of the grass? Who lives among your leaves and branches? Do they help you or hurt you? You have lived in this place for a hundred years - how has the world changed around you? What might you know that none of the other beings in the meadow know?
One last time, feel yourself change into another being, this time a squirrel running down from the branches of the oak tree. What do you gain from the tree? What might you give to it? Enjoy your ability to bound effortlessly across the ground, to scramble and leap through the trees, your fluffy tail providing balance behind you. What makes you happy? What scares you? Who might you see around you? As a squirrel, look around the meadow, and then say good-bye to the meadow as you return once again to your human form, back in this human community.
Invite the children to share what they saw or felt during the meditation. Was anything surprising? What other plants and animals might they have seen or been? How would the ecosystem of the meadow have been different if one of the beings was missing? Invite them to consider particular interactions, such as if the bird had not been there to eat the bugs, or the squirrel had not been there to bury acorns (which grow into new oak trees).
Including All Participants
Fidget objects (Session 2, Leader Resource 2) may help some children stay quiet through the meditation.