Within scheduling, it can be important to make time for holistic self-care. During the morning, I dedicate time to exploring daily self-care by using medicine wheel teachings. Each sector influences the other.
For instance, if we have negative thoughts, it may affect our emotions. We may feel anxiety, shame, doubt etc. These may the influence our bodies, feeling nausea, exhaustion and headaches. All of these impact our spiritual health, disconnecting us from each other, ourselves and the land.
Physical: We take daily walks outside and follow online yoga videos (my youngest loves cosmicyoga on youtube). Dress for the weather (we are in a transitionary spring climate that shifts from -13 degrees to +16). Dress for the weather. There are so many teachings the land can offer (snow, rain, sun, wind). We take care of our bodies with nutrition and gardening. Yoga practices breathing and creating mindfulness is a good step to learning self-regulation.
for parents: take time for yourself to also walk with them or to follow your own exercise program. Model physical activity, which may inspire your children to do the same.
Mental: We make time to talk about our thoughts in the world, which naturally unfold when we make art and play together. The children have the opportunity to share their fears or musing about the future. We have made art and took time to process them. Additionally, by doing STEAM activities, they are exercising their executive functions like problem-solving, adapting and reflecting.
for parents: take time to talk to your support network and process your thoughts. Facetime, phone calls, text or online forums to practice safe social distancing while maintaining connection with others. Do activities for yourself too, whether that be work, reading or keeping a daily log. Journals do not have to be just for teens, we can use them too! Jstor has also made their database accessible to the public so nows the time to explore that one thing you have always been interested in:
Emotional: We have a dedicated time to explore emotional expression. Using art and a daily art journal (which we have always had), we make time to explore feelings. Modeling that it is safe to look at all our feelings, even if we are uncomfortable, is helpful for children to learn how to express. Be there for them and remember to be the secure base for them. If you feel activated, name it for yourself and allow yourself to be there. Feelings are safe.
For parents: Again, stay in contact with your social networks. It is ok to show vulnerability to children because it shows them that they can be vulnerable too. But be mindful of how we choose to regulate. Make art, breathing exercises, exercise.
Here are some free mindfulness apps: insight timer; smiling mind; stop, breathe & think; UCLA mindful; 10% happier
Spiritual: Each morning, we begin with a smudge and the Ohenton Kariwatehkwen (thanksgiving address). We practice spiritual connection when we connect with each other and the land.
For parents: spirituality does not have to mean religion. It can mean connection.
Although these are separated into categories, they often interconnect–especially when making art or spending time in nature.
Schools Closed March 13th and suddenly many parents were faced with childcare and work-from-home responsibilities. Below were my weekly examples based on the interests of my children. I followed my guideline schedule to balance physical activity, mental/emotion health, online resources and hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) powered projects to encourage learning and connection.
- Physical activity and outdoor walks
- Mindfulness exercises and art-making (gratitude, smudging, breathing exercises)
- Online learning and physical sheets for math (IXL for grade 6 and Prodigy for grade 1)
- Lunch and leisure time
- STEAM learning based around a themed project (they select the theme)
- Outdoor play and leisure time
- Family and game time (switch, board games, art, play)
DAY 1 STEAM:
In the afternoon, we did a lesson on respiratory health using both online and book resources. We learned about the body and explored how we take care of our bodies. We explored our traditional teachings as Mohawk First Nations people through stories and medicine. Taking them outside, we laid down our tobacco and acknowledged the cedar. Cedar is used to purify homes and gathering spaces. Foraging through our cultural customs, we gathered cedar to make cedar tea.
Our ancestors used cedar tea to aid respiratory health and fevers but should not be consumed more than twice a week. People who are pregnant should not consume cedar tea. We collected the leaves, simmered in boiling water and sweetened with maple syrup.
This time of year is maple season and we honoured the maple trees in our traditional ways. They too are medicine.
Lesson themes: traditional teachings/history, health science, language arts, holistic health.
Day 2 STEAM:
In the afternoon, we explored the connections between math and art. For grade 1, we practiced shapes in both English and our Mohawk language. We built shapes using tooth picks and mini marshmallows to create a whole town. For grade six, there was also participation and some lessons on perspective drawing with some math angles.
Conversations emerged around mental health, safety and security. Creating together is a wonderful opportunity to connect.
Lesson themes: math, architecture, storytelling, art.
Day 3 STEAM:
In the afternoon, we explored our carbon footprint on the environment using food chains and nature exploration. Using Brainpop (excellent resource), the children did some research on environmental science. They were invited to choose an animal from their backyard and explore their role in the food web.
Using a physical activity, they created their own food web using yarn and stools, playing with the idea of removing elements. They shared their inferences and together we explore the role of humanity. Pipelines, deforestation and over-hunting were explored. We ended the day in an exploration outside where they were invited to create a video documentary of food chains in their environment and the role of humanity.
Lesson themes: environmental science, social justice, art.
Day 4 STEAM:
In the afternoon, we explored motion, physics and energy by creating a marble obstacle course using recycling. They followed BRAINPOP resources to learn about the history of motion and how energy states change. We applied them to our marble structure and explore how we can use motion to understand the world.
Lesson themes: math, science, history, art and engineering.
Day 5 STEAM:
In the afternoon, these curious learners wanted to explore Viking history. As an art therapist in communities, I am always mindful of cultural safety when exploring other cultures. I took time to find reputable videos and sources from nordic cultures so that they were receiving knowledge. Like Indigenous communities, it is important to gather information from elders and stories from the community itself to minimize extractive and colonial lenses. Through videos, they gathered information and were invited to explore “a day in the life”. They created characters, oath sculptures and baked traditional bread. For grade six math, there was the invitation to change the fractions (measurements).
We made links to our wampum and treaties with Viking customs. This builds connections with others.
Lesson themes: history, art, math, cultural links.
As an art therapist and a parent, this suggestions come from both research and experience. Please note that there is no one-size fits all approach but feel free to use any suggestions that makes sense for your family.
I began with a basic structure, inviting my family to contribute to setting expectations and daily themes. This way, they become part of the process and their own learning. This can give children a sense of empowerment and self-esteem in know that they are heard. Self-esteem is critical to learning. If a child feels good about themselves, they will be more open to new information and challenge.
This is an example of our schedule. Although it seems rigid, it is not. There are times where playing outside takes an extra hour or times when the learning activity goes over by 30 minutes. There are times when math feels too much and we do a limited amount of time. I encourage play and flexibility and to follow the flow of the children. My children are aged 12 and 7, so the schedule shifts based on their age as well.
This acts more of a guideline than a rule.
Structure can help them to feel normalcy, stability and self-organization during a time in the world where everything feels unstable.
Setting up the learning environment is also important to create structure. We chose a place in the house to dedicate to the “learning spot”. They gathered the materials they thought they would need and know where to go when it’s time for research or math games.
Although learning objects can be important, remember to have time for unstructured play. Children learn through experience and we as parents can create teachable moments as we explore together. Connect, be with, and listen.
Be there when they are challenged, encourage effort and model problem-solving. We do not have to be experts but we can create spaces of learning.
From February 22nd to 24th, Canadian Roots Exchange and its partners invited me to facilitate a 3-day emergent sculpture as part of the Foraging Our Paths youth conference. Participants were Indigenous and non-indigenous who attended came from coast to coast. They were invited to bring objects from their homeland together create a group sculpture as part of the dialogue around environmental violence and land relations.
Hosted by Concordia University’s 4th space, local resources were donated for the project including garbage, recycling and other found objects. Participants were invited to explore the objects and use them to tell a story about their relations to the land. Some came in with ideas and others used the materials to speak for them. All objects were secured using different glue-based fixtures.
Over our time together, conversations emerged around natural resources, climate change, capitalism and the role of each of us in building bridges to a healthier world. Many brought their experiences with infrastructures and some brought their innocence. Together we were able to bridge community through land.
These conversations came a critical time, when communities across the nation were coming together to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people in their stance against the Canadian pipeline proposed to run through their community. In a long line of history of land removal in this way, barricades and teachings went viral around indigenous history and the importance of speaking for the land.
As part of APTN’s season 2 series called Skindigenous, I was invited to participate in a mini documentary about art therapy in First Nations communities.
In our conversation, we explored the role of multigenerational trauma and the impact of cultural restoration in community health. There was focus on identity exploration and the power art-making lends to its creator to deconstruct and reconstruction what it means to be Indigenous.
Between November 30th and December 1st, I facilitated a 12 hour mural weekend workshop to help a group of youth envision and create an image to reflect their conversation about decolonization.
Beginning with an open studio art-hive approach, the group was invited to visually and symbolically explore their experience of privilege, decolonization and reconciliation. As a collective, we co-created a unified image that reflected each voice within the process. Through this project, it was evident how the creative process can support individuals to process challenging social, political and person content as well as build a sense of community.
Thank you CRE Youth Reconciliation Initiative, Press Start, Concordia’s office of community engagement and the Montreal Indigenous Community NETWORK for inviting me to build a creative community with these young change-makers. This mural can be seen at Batiment 7.