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Hello! I am currently a graduate student, pursuing a School Counseling degree. I'd like to work with junior high and high school kids and I really want to incorporate my passion for nature into my work. I'm thinking nature walks at lunchtime, a school community garden, and more... I just don't know where to start. I'd LOVE to hear your ideas. Have any of you done anything similar at your schools or  know someone who has? I know some teachers have, but I'd really like to translate that into something I can do as a school counselor. Any resources, brainstorming, etc. would be much appreciated. Thanks so much!

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Hi April

 

Start by asking the children with whom you are working. Also , is it recess or lesson time? If it's recess then go for nature play ideas - See David Sobel's Nature Design Principles book. 

 

If it's lesson time, use the above book for a child-centred approach. 

 

It may be worth joining the Forest Education Initiative Group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/101821253217957/ and asking the same question there to see what response you get.

Hi April,

Just getting junior high and high school aged children outside tends to help them talk more than in the office in my experience. Ask them to find a natural item and talk about it.

 

I've been integrating ideas from a Ph.D. Thesis by Ronen Berger: Nature Therapy Developing a Framework for Practice. Chapter 5 describes a case study from a program in Israel called Encounters in Nature. This can be located at www.naturetherapy.org under Ph. D. Thesis. It is specific to using Nature Therapy in school settings with special needs children. Appendix 2 has many parts of the thesis in article form with a number of them relevant or specific to school settings. The concepts developed in the thesis might provide a framework for using your passion for nature in your counseling. I also use Coyotes Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown and have adapted or translated some of the activities for mental health outcomes.

Example: Eagle Eyes is a game where the eagle closes their eyes and counts (yes eagles can count up to 30) while all the birds, rabbits, ant eaters, etc hide but must be able to see eagle with one eye. Eagle announces they are opening there eyes and searches for prey. They do not leave their perch though. If they see someone they describe what they are wearing, where they are. Caught prey go to the nest, but do not reveal where other animals are. If can't find anymore then Eagle announces they are closing eyes and counting to lesser number and the other animals are supposed to move closer. This repeats until last of the prey has been caught who may then become the next eagle. For mental health outcomes those in hiding roles heart rates, breathing rates go up because they don't don't want to get eaten, caught; yet they must stay still to be successful meaning they are practicing some form of coping skills (breathing, self talk, progressive muscle relaxation, etc) that can be applied to anger management, managing anxiety, managing difficult emotions. Coping skills can be taught before or after and sometimes develop naturally during the game because of the need it creates.

Todd, WOW... thank you so much for your response! I found the thesis and will read that soon. I think it'll give me a great starting point for something I can adapt to fit my goals. The Coyote Guide looks great too--will buy that too. I really appreciate it! Thanks again.

Todd Embree said:

Hi April,

Just getting junior high and high school aged children outside tends to help them talk more than in the office in my experience. Ask them to find a natural item and talk about it.

 

I've been integrating ideas from a Ph.D. Thesis by Ronen Berger: Nature Therapy Developing a Framework for Practice. Chapter 5 describes a case study from a program in Israel called Encounters in Nature. This can be located at www.naturetherapy.org under Ph. D. Thesis. It is specific to using Nature Therapy in school settings with special needs children. Appendix 2 has many parts of the thesis in article form with a number of them relevant or specific to school settings. The concepts developed in the thesis might provide a framework for using your passion for nature in your counseling. I also use Coyotes Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown and have adapted or translated some of the activities for mental health outcomes.

Example: Eagle Eyes is a game where the eagle closes their eyes and counts (yes eagles can count up to 30) while all the birds, rabbits, ant eaters, etc hide but must be able to see eagle with one eye. Eagle announces they are opening there eyes and searches for prey. They do not leave their perch though. If they see someone they describe what they are wearing, where they are. Caught prey go to the nest, but do not reveal where other animals are. If can't find anymore then Eagle announces they are closing eyes and counting to lesser number and the other animals are supposed to move closer. This repeats until last of the prey has been caught who may then become the next eagle. For mental health outcomes those in hiding roles heart rates, breathing rates go up because they don't don't want to get eaten, caught; yet they must stay still to be successful meaning they are practicing some form of coping skills (breathing, self talk, progressive muscle relaxation, etc) that can be applied to anger management, managing anxiety, managing difficult emotions. Coping skills can be taught before or after and sometimes develop naturally during the game because of the need it creates.

Juliet, thank you--I did join the group on Facebook. Thanks for letting me know about it. :) For now, my idea is that this would be during lunchtime because I want to counsel at the secondary level but eventually I could do lessons. Thanks again!


Juliet Robertson said:

Hi April

 

Start by asking the children with whom you are working. Also , is it recess or lesson time? If it's recess then go for nature play ideas - See David Sobel's Nature Design Principles book. 

 

If it's lesson time, use the above book for a child-centred approach. 

 

It may be worth joining the Forest Education Initiative Group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/101821253217957/ and asking the same question there to see what response you get.

The source mentioned by Juliet is great.  Depending on population and accessibility other helpful resources are listed below.  There are may others as well.  I have used each, which serve as a foundation for most of our adventure-therapy curriculum (in terms of design and facilitation).  You can find tons of experiential resources via aee.org or pa.org.  

  • Processing The Experience - Luckner and Nadler
  • Adventure Therapy - Michael Gass -- he has others as well one just published
  • Use of a Concious Metaphor in Outward Bound - Stephen Bacon
  • Keeper of Earth Series (there are many I believe).
  • Islands of Healing, Exploring Islands of Healing, Silver Bullets, Cowtails and Cobras (for theory-based facilitation and activities) -- find at pa.org
Helpful practitioners and researchers that touch on "nature therapy"/adventure-therapy (for research articles, etc):
  • Michael Gass
  • Simon Priest
  • Jude Hirsch
  • Lee Gillis


Juliet Robertson said:

Hi April

 

Start by asking the children with whom you are working. Also , is it recess or lesson time? If it's recess then go for nature play ideas - See David Sobel's Nature Design Principles book. 

 

If it's lesson time, use the above book for a child-centred approach. 

 

It may be worth joining the Forest Education Initiative Group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/101821253217957/ and asking the same question there to see what response you get.

Dennison, thank you for your reply! I will look into those resources.

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