They are cute, fluffy and super winter-y, although you may not want to try to cuddle one! What are they? Polar bears, of course. Kids love learning about animals, especially these unique bears. A polar bear themed yoga class is the perfect opportunity to blend academic learning and fun activities.
- Start the adventure by greeting students as they enter the frigid arctic. You could decorate the space with icicles, snow mounds, pictures of Arctic animals, and streamers of green, pink, purple, and blue to mimic the Northern Lights. Make sure you still include a meditation, like Peace Begins with Me.
- For a fun pranayama (or breathing) exercise, have the kids pretend they are cold and “warm up” their hands with their breath. This will give them a chance to really feel their breath, its temperature and how their belly inflates and deflates as they inhale and exhale.
- Before the class, let students know that they are to bring one of their favorite stuffed toy or their treasured pal. During the class, children become Mama or Papa Bear. Tell them how mama and papa bears are very protective over their baby bears and that it is their job to keep their little bears safe, warm and protected. Pretend to feed and cuddle the little bears and show them how to do poses with their “baby”. They should be mindful of where their baby is, if they are warm, and keep them safe.
- One of the best elements about this class is the ability to teach some environmental aspects in a way that happens organically and is relatable. One of the ways scientists know our Earth is too warm is by the behavior and habits of polar bears. (These guys are actually used in a ton of research pertaining to this topic). You could show a quick video with real polar bear footage or even have a zoologist come to talk to the class about the bears and the challenges they face. A game to play that helps kids understand how the bears’ habitats are diminishing is to lay out a humongous sheet of white paper that represents ice. Or, just have them place their mats side-by-side, like a giant chunk of ice. Have everybody practice their yoga poses with music on the sheet/ice. As the music progresses, roll up the paper/mats, making less space. As space becomes limited, the students (i.e. the bears) have to move off the ice sheet until there are only 1-3 students left. Of course, really young students probably will not understand this analogy, but six years and up will. It brings awareness and helps them to empathize with the bears.
- Cotton balls, cardstock, yarn, and googly eyes are all that is needed to make some cute, little polar bears. Have the students cut the paper in the shape of a bear or a circle, glue the ruffled (by pulling it out) cotton balls and the eyes to the cardstock, and add a scarf with the yarn. If you have younger students, you could always pre-cut the bear shape.
- For a story addition, try Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. As with all other Martin and Carle books, this one is a fun read! Add poses for each animal in the story (you may have to create new, never-seen-before poses).
- As you are settling down and preparing for savasana, ask your students what bears do for a really long time. They will most likely know about hibernation, but if they don’t, now is a great time to introduce the concept! Let them know that in their Secret Garden, they and their baby bears are going to hibernate over the long winter. You could even write a guided meditation about snowy river banks, alpine trees, cozy bear caves, etc.
Have fun with this class by letting your imagination run wild!
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