It’s not really springtime here in Portland until the cherry trees burst into bloom. And right now, they are gorgeous.
Their sudden color, their delicate scent occasionally wafting on a breeze, their promise of warmer days to come – is it any wonder that cherry blossoms are such a potent emblem of hope?
The sense of renewal seems stronger and more vibrant than ever this spring. Or maybe the intensity only seems greater in contrast now that pandemic life is behind us.
Although plenty of challenges remain, hope is one of the things that helps us rise to meet them. It’s one reason why hope is the core of our Earth Warriors extension of Yoga Calm. Without it, there can be no action towards change.
“Don’t They Understand How Much We Love This Place?”
Like our core Yoga Calm curriculum, Earth Warriors sprung out of a practical need.
It was 2009, and Lynea was working as a school counselor in a district with kids who had many social and emotional needs. She was beginning to feel compassion fatigue, though, and was finding it harder to listen to the children’s stories as empathetically as before.
So she decided to do something different. She started taking groups of students to the creek and patch of forest just behind their elementary school. “Sit by the water,” she’d tell them. “Listen to the rhythm of the stream. Tell the trees, the sky, the earth about your joys and your sorrows.”
The response was magical. The kids showed an immediate connection to the outdoors. Sometimes they would sit by a nearby pond and share their thoughts with each other as they tossed sticks into the water. They named the trees. They named the pond. It became an important place for them.
When the district decided that the pond was a nuisance and filled it with dirt, the children got angry. They threw sticks at it and released their rage. “Don’t they understand how much we love this place?” they asked.
Children are intuitively drawn to nature, and why not? It’s our original home. Lynea and I found ourselves talking about it more and more in the evenings. “Imagine what would be possible if that love and passion for nature was protected in every child?” she’d say. “What if we, as educators, activated the love and imagination of all children toward solving the challenges of living harmoniously on this planet?”
Instead of scaring kids with stories of how our climate crisis is making survival harder for every living thing we share this beautiful world with, why not build a program based on love, imagination, and intelligence? Why not build with the tools of hope?
Making Every Day Earth Day
Earth Warriors answers the need of young people for opportunities to connect with nature so they can come to understand the importance of – and commit to – caring for it.
So we start with love and connection to kindle curiosity. Then we support students in expanding their knowledge of the natural world through scientific inquiry and observation, followed by engaging in responsible and peaceful environmental activities. This engagement gives students a positive context for dealing with the difficult issues facing our planet.
All this is intertwined with Yoga Calm activities. This lets us play with the essential tools and techniques of physical yoga, observation, self-reflection, social-emotional skills practice, and storytelling, all through the simplest backyard and schoolyard explorations.
When young people use these methods, they gain greater appreciation of their own bodies, and their relationships to self and others. With the optimistic outlooks, positive attitudes, and skills gained through Earth Warriors, students can become better prepared to take effective action in informed, productive, and eminently hopeful ways.
Earth Warriors can help make every day Earth Day – a day of hope in action.
With material adapted from the introduction to Earth Warriors:
Protecting the Planet through Love, Knowledge, & Action