Greetings Parents & Caregivers of Precious Seeds,
I am delighted to introduce you to some exciting programming I’ve developed for children and families of Precious Seeds this year.
While I have an ambitious curriculum this year, the essence of what I hope to accomplish can be summed up in three themes: Movement, Mindfulness & Wonder. These three themes are hugged and snugged by 2 meta categories: Ethics & Community. I refer to this as the “Table of Context”.
Itty Bitty Yoga Program Table of Context:
(See above poster for the Illustrated table)
My primary intention is to provide curriculum that is responsive, relevant, and educational for early childhood. To this end, I’d like to explain my overarching plan, and then provide you with updates to detail finer points each month in the Precious Seeds Newsletter.
The Itty Bitty Yoga program has evolved over the years at Precious Seeds to include dance and movement, as I am currently a student in a Dance & Movement Therapy post graduate program. I’m very excited to be sharing these practices with your children for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the children’s response guides me; as they engage easily and demonstrate signals of joy. Another reason this learning has been so important to me and significant to the program is the focus on child development in general and developmental movement specifically. One way that I am ensuring that this learning filters down to your children in the most profound way is through the practice of observation. I will be spending time at both sites this year observing your children in order to determine the most appropriate movement methodologies for them. My intention is to provide you with summaries of my observations and how those impact my plans, making this a true living and breathing document.
The Itty Bitty Yoga Table of Context Explained
I teach a style of yoga called Raja Yoga, sometimes referred to as Classical Yoga. This practice is defined by a special text that was written by a yoga scholar over 2500 years ago called the Yoga Sutras. In this text the author Patanjali outlined a system referred to as Ashtanga Yoga and the Eight Limbed Path. What this means for you is to know that Yoga is so much more than a system of exercise, in fact, the asanas (yoga poses) are only 1 of the 8 limbs, making this system extensive and comprehensive. I look forward to explaining more about this throughout the year, as I will focus on one limb at a time. Briefly, for now, the first 2 limbs are referred to as Yamas and Niyamas which comprise the ethical components of yoga practice. Yamas uphold Social Ethics, and Niyamas provide for ethical Self Care practices. These ethical guidelines outline principles for living that include non-violence, truth telling and contentment, to name a few of the ten ethics. They fit very well with the school’s focus on virtues and character education. If there is interest from parents, I’d be delighted to host a free workshop to explain them in more detail directly if needed beyond what is provided here in my newsletters and blogs.
Movement will include yoga asana (poses), dance, as well as creative and rhythmic movements. An aspect of Dance & Movement Therapy that has been very exciting for me to learn about is how certain rhythmic movements can be soothing, nourishing and healing to the nervous system. These movements can aid in the integration of early reflex patterns, therefore helping the brain to grow appropriately in tandem with gross and fine motor skill development, and this can have direct positive effects on speech and learning, cognition and behaviour. This is another area of the curriculum that I’d be so pleased to workshop with parents if there is a desire to learn more beyond what you get in these newsletters. Workshops would also provide you with a venue for direct questions, and the ability to learn these movements to enjoy at home.
Having taught extensively in the elementary and secondary school system, I can tell you that children and youth of all ages easily learn and appreciate skills in the practices of mindfulness and meditation. I find they crave it! These skills help to enhance the parts of the brain involved in executive functioning, which include focus and attention, understanding consequences, empathy and choice making. These skills also help children to self regulate, to become more aware and appreciative of their environments and each other, and inspire a fidelity to self care that will serve them well as responsible adults.
The topic of wonder includes many facets for me, including a connection and reverence for the natural world, an attitude of curiousity and exploration in movement, and a wide open landscape for creativity to be expressed. I provide opportunities for children in ‘craftivism’, a form of creativity with an intention towards social justice and community development. Over the course of the year, we will explore both movement justice (inclusion and diversity) and the gift economy, sharing in ways that promote selfless service.
For me, yoga, dance and movement are all about creating community: first creating community in the classroom, and then extending that sense of belonging out into families, natural social circles, and into children’s experience of their wider place in the world. “Planet Care” will be an aspect of our activities through Yoga Ethic Stories this year, which includes practices for treading lightly upon this Big Blue Dot.
While these categories may seem discreet, for me, they are all connected and interwoven.
I’m very excited to begin working with your children and I want you to feel like you can connect with me directly if you have any questions or concerns. I consult and collaborate very closely with Christine and the incredible team at Precious Seeds, so you could also let any of them know if you have specific questions or concerns you would like to have addressed. I’m here in service to you.
Please also let any of us know if you are interested in workshops that may provide you with a greater understanding and skills practice for any of the offerings this year. I’d be very pleased to involve you in this deeper learning and support for your children. If there is interest, we will definitely host workshops for you.
With tender care, warmth and wonder,
Joani Mortenson, MSW, RSW, E-RYT, RCYT