Welcome to the second of a two-part series on exploring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curriculum through music, yoga and mindfulness. If you missed it, you can check out the first installment on The Water Cycle here!
Spring is here...finally! We have braved the long winter. Now the snow melts, the air warms and the ground softens as it prepares for new life. This is the perfect time of year to focus on plants: they are our earthly partners in breathing and the stability of our ecosystem.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
- Albert Einstein
This month, in classrooms across NYC, children will be learning about plants. Read on for some ideas about how to explore Photosynthesis using music, yoga and imagination as we continue our series on the integration of science, music, movement and mindfulness.
Did you know that plants make their own food? Plants take energy from sunlight and use it to convert carbon dioxide and water into food in a process call photosynthesis. Let's break down that word...
Photo = Light: Plants gather light through their leaves and capture it with a compound called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives most plants their green color.
Synthesis = Putting Together: Plants use that stored light energy from the sun to combine carbon dioxide and water to make food in the form of sugars or carbohydrates. Oxygen is released during this process.
Check out this awesome infographic all about photosynthesis from Kids Discover Online and then read on for how to explore these concepts using music, yoga and mindfulness!
PHOTO = LIGHT
Photosynthesis depends on the sun and starts when plants capture the sun's energy in their chlorophyll. To explore this with children, you can practice flower or plant poses, spreading your leaves to gather the sunlight. Visit our blog on exploring light for more ideas.
Try this: Sun Dance
Celebrate the sun, where all energy originates. There are many variations of the traditional sun salutation. Most are done moving on the breath. Use the song with children until they learn the sequence, then switch it up with humming, breathing or even silence.
SYNTHESIS = PUTTING TOGETHER
You can think of this as plants "breathing" just like us! Using the energy from the sun, plants take the carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with the water from the soil. The result of this combination is sugars (or plant food) and oxygen.
All animals, including us, need oxygen to live. You have probably been breathing all day long without even noticing it. But now, try holding your breath...it might seem easy at first but eventually your body will take over and make you breathe.
When we bring our awareness to our breathing, we can control it. We can make our breaths longer, slower, and deeper. By breathing mindfully, we have the power to focus our mind, calm our bodies and nervous system, reduce stress and feel relaxed.
Try this: Breathing Ball
Sit cross-legged in a circle and invite the children to match their breath to the breathing ball. Inhale as the ball expands and notice the feeling of the belly, ribs and chest expanding with the breath and the lungs fill. Exhale as the ball contracts and notice the feeling of belly drawing in and the ribs and chest settling as the lungs empty. When we inhale, we are breathing in oxygen and when we exhale we are breathing out carbon dioxide. You can pass the ball around the circle giving each child a chance to lead a round of breathing.
In addition to oxygen, plants use water for photosynthesis. You can combine both a breathing exercise and water exploration with our Ocean Breathing relaxation. You might also have children make their bodies into flowers, plants and trees and imagine drawing water up through their roots.
Try this: Tree Poses
Be strong like a tree, starting with deep roots and then growing your branches. Imagine the water being drawn up through your roots as you balance. Trees are about 50% water!
Partner up for group discovery
Invite the children to work together in pairs or in a group to demonstrate photosynthesis. Children can choose to make the sun with their body or represent light in some way. Other children can use their bodies to make trees, plants and flowers. You can add call and response, the sun can calling "I shine my light" while the plants respond "I receive your light" or "Thank you for the light."
Incorporate partner breathing, sitting back to back. One child could be a plant breathing carbon dioxide while the other is a person or animal breathing oxygen.
Sing along to "You Are My Sunshine" or any of the several children's songs about light, water and plants!
If you have ideas for other STEM themes we could explore using music, movement and mindfulness, we would love to from you!