Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Connected Wellness Global Yoga Challenge

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might have followed my journey last fall when I became a certified yoga teacher in Greece. Upon my return to the kindergarten classroom, I was excited to experiment with yoga as part of a developmentally appropriate play-based learning program. Read more here about how yoga has enhanced our connections to literature.

My young learners have embraced yoga as part of their daily routine and have benefited hugely from a daily yoga practice. So why yoga in the classroom?
-encourages tolerance and acceptance of others
-promotes healthy habits
-countless physical benefits: strength, flexibility, balance
-teaches focus and improves ability to sustain attention
-teaches calming techniques and self-awareness
-promotes self-regulation and positive mental health
-more information available here 
And as always happens with my young learners and me when we are passionate about something, we want to share it with others. This started with practicing yoga with Mrs. Obach's Grade 1 class via Skype and teaching yoga poses to Miss Green's Grades 3/4 class in our own school. My boys and girls proved themselves to be very capable little yoga teachers and they loved connecting with classrooms around the world, so it made sense to combine these two interests into a global yoga challenge!

My colleague and best friend Leah Obach and I are both Microsoft Innovative Expert Fellows, and we agreed that two of our favourite Microsoft tools were perfect to support this project.
Skype: to connect classrooms to practice yoga together
One Note: to curate and share wellness resources such as yoga pose tutorials, links, and videos.
Both of these tools are free and multi-platform, which is really important when working with teachers around the globe.

Follow this link to view our Connected Wellness One Note resources.

Leah and I co-moderated a Manitoba Ed Chat (#mbedchat) on Twitter that focused on wellness in school communities. It was a great opportunity to launch our Connected Wellness Global Yoga Challenge, and we shared a link to a sign up form. It was exciting to recruit 21 classrooms from around the world to take part in the week-long event! Check out our Bing map showing all the participants!
March 14-18 was our designated week for the Connected Wellness Global Yoga Challenge, and my boys and girls worked hard to select their favourite poses and breathing techniques. We created tutorials for each pose using photographs and shared writing. We also made short videos for breathing techniques and sequences such as sun salutations. As mentioned above, all these resources were organized in One Note. As we created these resources, we discussed the importance of using our own images and work. It's never too early to build digital citizenship!
As we created our pose tutorials, the learning was multi-disciplinary. We uncovered descriptors from the Literacy with ICT continuum, physical education/health outcomes, as well as ELA outcomes as we captioned the photographs. 

Once our tutorials were made, we used Microsoft Publisher to create a calendar for the week showing what was happening each day. This gave learners a practical application for our daily calendar work. We chose one or two yoga poses or breathing techniques for each day of the challenge.  
And finally the long-awaited week was here. I woke up early each morning to share the daily pose tutorials with our participants, using Twitter and email to make sure that everyone received the One Note links. Each day of the challenge, we connected with three classrooms:
-a daily morning yoga practice with Mrs. Obach's Grade 1 classroom via Skype
-a daily afternoon yoga practice with Miss Green's Grades 3/4 class in our school 
-a Skype call to connect with challenge participants virtually--it was so exciting to teach yoga to "big kids" at university and a French immersion classroom in Brandon 

Each day of the challenge, participants were encouraged to post pictures and videos on social media practicing the daily pose(s) using the hashtag #connectedwellness. It was so exciting to check Twitter and Instagram to view the pictures and read the captions. Pictures of students practicing yoga in school uniforms sparked a lot of questions from my kindergarten students. 

To conclude our challenge, we collaborated with Mrs. Obach's class in person to practice yoga and make a video showing all the photographs from the week. Watch our movie here. My students, our Grade 1 partner classroom, Leah, and I all agreed that it was an excellent week of yoga--we shared important wellness practices with 21 classrooms and their teachers and definitely raised awareness for wellness in schools! 

If you are interested in trying out our Connected Wellness Global Yoga Challenge, please check out the resources in One Note. Try any of the poses on your own or with your students and tweet it to us using @india0309 and #connectedwellness. We'd love to hear from you or connect via video call! Until then...namaste!

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