Mountain School @ Home: Lesson 1 – Sit Spots
Students! Parents! Teachers! During this time of school closures and stay-at-home guidelines, North Cascades Institute is sharing lessons and activities from our talented Mountain School instructors. We hope these will inspire students of all ages to continue to learn about the natural world and discover new connections to the outdoors from home. This lesson was created by Mountain School instructors Emily Schauble and Bridget Stuart. Find more lessons and activities on our blog or website.
Having a sit spot is exactly as it sounds! Sit spots involve taking time to sit in a spot of your choosing in the natural world and getting to know it a little better. This time allows you to use your senses to observe- sight, smell, hearing and touch. This can be done if you have access to a backyard, a local park, a balcony, or even just by opening your window and bringing your attention to what’s going on outside. Sit spots are enjoyable for people of all ages and can even be done with another person, although you would ideally be at least 10 feet apart. Sit spots require no special skills or equipment and may provide you with the time and space to get to know your world on a deeper level.
Sit spot instructions:
- Find a spot where you can sit quietly with little distraction. (If you cannot find a quiet spot, that’s okay! You can still utilize your other senses and watch as the natural world changes during bouts of silence and bouts of noise.)
- Find a comfortable location where you feel safe and content. Set a timer for ten minutes and see if you can remain still for this stretch of time.
- Ten minutes can seem daunting, especially if you are sitting and waiting for the unknown. To focus your time, think about the sight, sound and smell questions below and you might be surprised by how quickly this time flies by.
- Find a time to reflect on your experience afterwards in a way that is meaningful to you. Listed below are engaging suggestions for reflection.
Questions to think about while in your sit spot:
- When I close my eyes, how many different sounds can I hear?
- Do the sounds I’m hearing change over the course of my sit? Do I hear more sounds or less sounds the longer I sit? Why might that be?
- Are there any sounds I can’t identify? What might these sounds be?
- What is something I have never noticed before about something around me?
- Whether in a rural or urban space, what evidence can I find of nature around me? What around me was made by humans?
- How could I describe one object in my sit spot to someone that is not here right now?
- What is the most fragrant thing around me right now?
- What does this smell remind me of? A food item? A memory?
- Is the smell pleasant or unpleasant? Why might that be?
Reflecting upon your experience: This is a valuable time to look back on all of the things you noticed while in your sit spot. By looking back on this moment you may realize something that you hadn’t previously (example: the birds all left and then a couple of minutes later people walked by. Maybe the birds left because they were trying to stay away from the people). This is not only a valuable time to find meaning in your observations but also save them for yourself to look at in the future (journal entry) and share them with a friend!
Sit spot reflections (whether it be immediately afterwards or later that day):
- Draw a 360 degree map of your sit spot and add in any details that you were excited about!
- Write a journal entry about the things you saw, smelled and heard while in your sit spot.
- If you shared a sit spot with someone what are similarities that you noticed? How about differences?
- Compare your observations to the previous day or various times of day.
- Create a dance or play to portray all of the interesting moments at your sit spot to someone who may not have been there.
If nothing else, take the time within your sit spot to relax! Feel free to share this activity with people both close and afar. Hopefully you will find a greater connection to your space and even yourself whether you visit your sit spot just once or continue this practice for days, weeks and months henceforth.
Thank you for helping us offer these at-home lessons for transformative learning experiences in nature by making a gift at www.ncascades.org/give.
This was an enjoyable read. I think that if everyone that reads this sits and uses their senses they will learn about and appreciate the world around them.
This is such a great exercise for the kids to do….I love it….I might even try it…
I would love to tell my son this he would love it.
As a former preschool teacher, I applaud your creativity, sensitivity, and understanding of how important observation, focus on direct experience, and reflection, are for growth and development — at any age. I remember doing similar exercises with my pre-schoolers in the 50’s, walking on the streets of Manhattan, identifying sounds and smells… Today, at 96, I sit on my balcony and listen for the sounds of birds….