Saturday, September 11, 2010

Coming to my class? Bring your walking shoes.

This semester I want  to get students to unplug and connect physically with the outdoors and the fabulosity of western Massachusetts. 

I'm thinking about requiring my students to get outside for an hour each week with no electronics. Go to Skinner Park, hike up the mountain and look for this view of the Connecticut River, The Oxbow, painted by Thomas Cole, and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Wander the grounds of the Peace Pagoda in Leverett. Yes, this place, below, is less than 15 miles from campus.

Ride a bike to Flayvors for a scoop of artisinal ice cream.

Commune with a Holstein at the dairy farm on the other side of 116 from Southwest.

Why? Because cool places are all around you in western Mass.

And there's growing research that suggests a healthy brain needs to be unplugged, in motion, and outdoors. And writers need healthy brains.

And, if you need to generate new ideas and keep those creative juices flowing, you need activity and new things to chew on. Everyone feels better after a walk, right? But now researchers are proving it. Here's a Times story on the topic.

John Ratey is an expert on this topic; he advocates the integration of physical activity into the classroom to help kids learn and focus better. Here's an NPR piece on his ideas.

In this US News and World Report article, writer Katherine Hobson explains the brain-body link.

Of course, it's one thing to get your exercise working on the eliptical in the rec center, with five television screens in front of you, an I-Pod plugged into your head.

But it's another to walk a trail in deep woods, a gentle breeze on your face, with the tweets coming from robins rather than your smartphone.

That's priceless. Try it. Here's the view on my walk. Talk about restorative. (And no, I didn't bring a camera! My husband Dan took it  on his way to work one morning.)