Peaceful Frogs Unites Art and Yoga
What do you do?
We are Jamie Wilson-Murray, creator of Mindful Play Yoga, a Jersey City Heights business, and Susan Newman, founder of Frogs Are Green, a New Jersey nonprofit environmental organization, as well as a professional artist and teacher in Hoboken Public Schools. We teamed up to provide children ages 3-6 and 4-12+ with Peaceful Frogs classes that include yoga, nature study, and art education in Hudson County.
How did you get started?
Studies show kids need more art and movement on a regular basis to enhance creativity. We also know that when we physically experience something and then put our impressions down on paper, they are more meaningful whether with words or pictures. We both believe cultivating creative self expression and exercise are linked to creating lifelong learners. So, we created classes that will both educate and engage children through yoga, environmental education, and art.
Once the Jersey City Parks Coalition (JCPC) launched the City of Trees initiative, and Goldman Sachs (GS) made it the theme of their Student Art Project (SAP), Frogs Are Green helped the JCPC and GS lay out the educational curriculum from which the students would learn, and Jesse Wright, the creative director for the project worked with the students to create their artwork.
Frogs Are Green is currently writing the City of Trees curriculum for grades 4-8 for the JCPC. At the kick-off of the Goldman Sachs student art project, Mindful Play Yoga taught a class at the Jersey City Reservoir to forty students. After the class, the students did a nature walk, followed by going inside to create artwork. Frogs Are Green was there to photograph, video tape and record the days learning experience.
How do Mindful Play Yoga and Frogs Are Green complement each other?
When children practice yoga poses and play yoga games with music they learn self-regulation techniques in a fun, positive environment. The word yoga means to yoke or unite. Through postures and breathing exercises kids feel more connected to themselves. We live in a world filled with many distractions, often making us feel somewhat disconnected from our true selves. Yoga offers kids the opportunity to connect more fully through movement and breathing. When a child is more self-aware, the space of creativity opens in their minds and bodies. Then they are ready for storytime and environmental education, and are open to the possibilities of making art.
Benefits of our combination yoga + art Peaceful Frogs classes:
- Body awareness and focus
- Awareness of breath
- Increased strength and flexibility
- Increased creative expression
- Connection to the environment
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Flow, connection and integration
- Tuning in to oneself, not to an electronic device
- Deep relaxation
- Playful learning
- Artistic experimentation of mediums and materials
- Inquisitive and discovering new things
How is Mindfulness being used in schools?
Mindfulness is being used in a variety of ways in schools depending on how fully the school district or principal has adopted it. The Holistic Life Foundation based in Baltimore, MD (http://hlfinc.org/) does incredible work in schools with mindfulness. A recent video of their work has gone viral as people are looking for other avenues to the no-tolerance policy. Some Jersey City public school's offers Brain Breaks, in which the entire school participates through the loudspeaker as the Vice Principal leads a meditation.
After-school yoga programs that provide mindfulness are available at cost to parents. Many classrooms are converting to 21st century spaces which offer young people opportunities for creative mindful expression. Check out, for example: https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/10-signs-21st-century-classroom.
Where do we teach?
We started teaching at Councilman Michael Yun's office at 366 Central Avenue.
We've since moved to offer our classes in multiple locations:
- 107 Bowers Gallery and ArtSpace – 107 Bowers Street, C2, Jersey City, NJ 07307
- Little Bee Learning Studio – 163 4th St, Hoboken, NJ 07030
- Sattva Yoga Jersey City – 523 Palisade Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07307
- Hudson County Community College FREE family workshops November 5 and 12– 70 Sip Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07306
Our two themes:
6-week curriculum Grouping A
Frogs and the Rainforest, Trees and Urban Forests, Honey Bees and Crops, Sea Life and Coral Reefs, Turtles and/or Birds, and Our Place in Nature (Reuse,Reduce, Recycle).
6-week curriculum Grouping B
Dinosaurs and Fossils, Herbs, Plants and Natural Remedies, Sea Creatures (sea dragons, etc.), Different types of Gardens (roof gardens, vertical gardens, vegetable gardens, floral gardens), Space (stars, planets, and our place in the universe), and Environmental Problems (climate change, etc.
What makes us unique?
Our nature-based curriculum works through the practice of yoga and conceptualization of art. We have created something quite new, and have seen how perfectly the classes flow.
Both yoga and art need focus and concentration. Through the weekly sessions, students become more engaged and self-aware.
What we love about what were doing?
We have seen that first-time students can be a bit nervous or distracted. However, by the middle of that first class, or the next, they've been fully participatory, asking for specific yoga poses, songs and games, and have blossomed creatively. One mom told us that her four-year-old daughter asks her every day if it's time for her yoga-art class.
How do we make learning awesome?
We feel that learning should be fun as well as instructive. When students are enjoying themselves, they retain new information, and each week they become eager to learn more.
Yoga and art have more in common than some may think. Both require concentration, thinking inside and outside the box, and an awareness of oneself and the space, and the world around them.
We have a passion for respecting the environment, and have built our nature-themed curriculum to educate students on amphibians, trees, gardens, sea life and more, all creating a combined class experience of yoga, nature and art.