Take Forest Bath on Earth Day and Every Day

Kim Moldofsky is the publisher of The Maker Mom and STEM Kids Chicago.

You’ve surely heard the old Earth Day tip that a brief shower requires less water than a typical bath. However, a refreshing forest bath needs no water at all. A forest bath isn’t about cleaning your body as much as it is about cleansing your mind. A forest bath is a leisurely, contemplative walk in the woods. It seems to me that this Japanese concept could apply equally to a hike in the mountains, a stroll on the beach or any other purposeful time spent immersing oneself in nature.

Walking through the woods with my dog, Tesla, is one of my favorite activities. Surrounded by trees with no one to talk to, my mind wanders. I focus on my senses as I look for budding plants, animal tracks, small mammals and deer. I listen for chirping birds or, during a small spring window, a loud chorus of frogs desperately looking for mates.

I’ve long referred to my nature walks as a form of meditation. The same can be said for forest baths, which the Japanese call shinrinyoku. These immersions in nature are also said to reduce stress and boost immune functioning. What a great way to celebrate Earth Day!

Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22, 2017. First celebrated in the United States in 1970, Earth Day went international in the 1990s. This year, millions of people in roughly 200 countries will mark the day. It is traditionally a time for education, action, and renewed personal commitments to make our planet greener, cleaner, and safer.

Earth Day in the Classroom

Although Earth Day occurs on a weekend, many educators work it into their lessons plans. Of course, environmental literacy is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. In fact, support for environmental education was written into the Every Student Succeeds Act, the education mandate that followed No Child Left Behind. Many educators and organizations are also pleased with how the Next Generation Science Standards promote environmental education and green STEM.

The US Environmental Protection Agency identifies the following key components of environmental education:

Awareness and sensitivity to the environment and environmental challenges

Knowledge and understanding of the environment and environmental challenges

Attitudes of concern for the environment and motivation to improve or maintain environmental quality

Skills to identify and help resolve environmental challenges

Participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges

If you’re looking for more specific activities or actions to boost environmental literacy in your classroom, try the 2017 Earth Day Toolkit from the Earth Day Network. The kit includes suggestions for K-12 classrooms.

And if you’re in search of resources to boost your own knowledge, look to the North American Association for Environmental Education. They offer resources, including online courses, webinars, and in-person workshops and training programs. Local natural history museums or environmental organizations may provide solid options as well. And if you want to increase your own learning in an exciting, hands-on way, apply for summer professional development opportunities like these.

Although there’s an eye toward growing the Earth Day celebration as it approaches its 50th anniversary in 2020, this year’s Earth Day is gathering momentum for a different reason- April 22 will also be the day of the inaugural Global March for Science. Whether you parade for science in the march or march through a forest, I hope you close out the day as a better informed citizen with personal commitments to better our planet.