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, have 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 Susan and Jamie join together?
The Jersey City Parks Coalition (JCPC) launched the City of Trees initiative and is working with Goldman Sachs for their Student Art Project. They brought Susan on to help helped the JCPC and GS lay out the educational curriculum from which the students would learn. 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, Jamie 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. Susan was there to photograph, video tape and record the days learning experience.
We know that when we physically experience something and then put our impressions down on paper, they are more meaningful whether with words or pictures. So, Jamie and Susan created classes that will both educate and engage children through yoga, environmental education, and art.
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 and 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 children 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 story-time and environmental education, and are open to the possibilities of making art.
How has the partnership evolved?
To start our collaboration, we built an initial six-week curriculum and now that we have taught in four locations, soon to be six, we have created a second, different six-week series of topics. We have a common goal of giving children hands-on practical tools to be healthier, care more about the world, and, of course, learning to express themselves more clearly through art, language and movement.
How do kids change during our Peaceful Frogs classes?
We have watched the children change over time. At first they seemed a bit distracted because the class and teachers were new. By the third class, they were asking for specific poses, songs and games. We have read assorted books about frogs, trees, sea turtles, and created artworks using crayons, markers, paint, PlayDoh and soon we'll even work with potato cutouts and make glitter jars. We love to open the kids' eyes to different mediums, color palettes and materials. Often we hear from parents that the kids have begun sharing what they've learned and started to teach the entire family yoga and breathing and talk about their art.
Benefits of a Peaceful Frogs class:
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
Artistic experimentation of mediums and materials
Inquisitive and discovering new things
Where do we teach?
We started teaching at Councilman Michael Yun's office at 366 Central Avenue, and moved to:
107 Bowers Gallery and ArtSpace
Little Bee Learning Studio
Sattva Yoga Jersey City
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.)
Susan Newman, a professional artist, also teaches in Hoboken Public Schools and Jamie Wilson Murray teaches Mindful Play Yoga at PS5 & PS3 in the afterschool program.
Article and photos by Peaceful Frogs