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Promoting mental health in nature

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On the sunny fall morning of Oct. 23, more than 40 fifth grade students took part in a special event called “A Day in Nature for Mental Health.” 

Joined by a handful of teachers and administrators, the students sat for a mindful meditation and deep breathing session led by Ama Karikari-Yawson, CEO of Milestales. They then went on a nature walk and participated in a science and climate education program led by Seatuck Education Director Peter Walsh.

Hasan Bakr, Milestales director of music education, led a Djembe drumming lesson and Karikari-Yawson also guided a storytelling session. Peter Walsh, Seatuck education director, taught students about the dangers of litter and pollution. 

The event was sponsored and organized by Milestales Publishing and Education Consulting, a company that provides books, performances, enrichment programs and training sessions to schools, universities and corporations; the Seatuck Environmental Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving Long Island wildlife and the environment; the Diverse Coalition for Environmental Health, a coalition of educators and environmentalists devoted to promoting environmental wellness in diverse communities; and Brookside Elementary School, of which Unal Karakas is the principal. 

Organizers said “A Day in Nature for Mental Health” was intended to address the mental health crisis among young children by providing access to arts programming in the natural environment. Studies prove that spending time in nature helps reduce anxiety and depression. The event also aimed to inspire a new generation of diverse environmental activists who organizers hope would work to improve global environmental health.