How are we similar to trees? What do we need in order to thrive? The Tree of Me project is very dear to me. I first designed the Tree of Me activity for a friend's social psychology class unit on "The Development of the Self" at Humber College to help promote inner healing and mindfulness of the self.
I turned this into a 'getting to know you' activity with my high school students. Later on, it became a final summative where there was an added reflection component.
Anyone can design their own tree. Find a certain type of tree that represents them. Eg: Pine tree if you were born in the winter months. This is a link to a list of trees and their meanings.
Symbolically, roots and branches can represent the following:
ROOTS: Roots can represent what has helped you become who you are today. This can include your
environment (your home, upbringing, etc), people in your life (family, friends, mentors), certain events
or experiences in your life, your personality traits, your culture, faith etc.
BRANCHES: Branches and leaves can represent your future goals and steps you need to reach your goals. Where do you see yourself in the near future? What are your hopes, goals and dreams? What steps may you need to take to get there? Start sketching your ideas in your notebook/sketchbook. You can use words as well as pictures.
This is an activity anyone can do! You can make it more complex by only allowing visual representations. Have fun!
Student Artwork, 2017 to 2019
Artwork by Nik Helbig
Student Artwork, 2014
Many cultures use meditation as a way to balance the mind, stay positive, and in doing so, develop compassion. So many cultures and religions use meditative components like closing their eyes, saying prayers, using prayer beads, reciting quotes or mantras and practicing breathing to take away stress! Religions such as Buddhism use various forms of meditation as part of their religious practice. It is where the word “Zen” comes from! In Hinduism, meditation includes opening of the chakras, doing yoga, chanting mantras such as ‘Aum” and using malas. Meditation is also important in Sikhism while chanting the Mool Mantra. Folks use many forms of meditation in a variety of ways! Some go for walks or exercise, and some use artistic forms such as dancing or even painting to create art. In other words, meditation has been adapted in many ways!. What comes to mind when you think of inner peace?
Art can be a tool used to promote mindfulness, decreasing anxiety and stress. It is therapeutic and an outlet for students to express their feelings without using words. During my practicum, I really wanted to integrate mindfulness into my unit planning, so, I thought about mediums that would work: watercolour. When mixed with water, watercolour has that tranquil, transforming quality. In a variety of cultures, water is used for healing. I decided to have students think about what spaces in nature made them feel at peace. They were to transport themselves into their peaceful landscapes.
Students benefit from "Mindful Mondays", having a 3 minute meditation before class begins. I noticed students concentrate better, and do not feel the need to use their devices as often. It gives them a tech break, away from media's expectations, away from notifications.
If you do integrate mindfulness, meditation and yoga practices into your classes, it is a good idea to explain the origins of meditation to show cultural appreciation and avoid appropriation.
Student Artwork, 2018
Art is a creative outlet for many but is also an important tool to send a message. Art activism promotes social change and hope for a more equitable world. As educators, we have a responsibility to advocate and teach about privilege and oppressive power structures. It is our obligation to become aware of our social location and advocate for the ways marginalization continues. With art activism, students develop an understanding of global issues and empathy for others. Art activism allows students to use and develop a variety of skills such as critical thinking skills and creative skills. Having our students learn about current world issues and create artwork that aims to promote social change, enables our children, our future, to see what a future of equality and acceptance looks like.