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The last few years have brought about a new or intensified feeling in many people, including children: the feeling of anxiety. Being outside and connecting with nature can help alleviate anxiety. Grounding techniques can also help to control symptoms of anxiety by turning attention away from stressors and refocusing on the present. This grounding technique, 5-4-3-2-1, incorporates the five senses and though it can be done anywhere, the school garden is a great place to introduce and practice this activity.

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5-4-3-2-1 Technique

Find a quiet place to sit and start with a few deep breaths. Walk them through the steps several times with spoken words or provide a “cheat sheet” they can reference to guide the process.

  • What are 5 things you can see? Look for things you have not noticed before, patterns or small details of an object.
  • What are 4 things you can feel? How does the sun or wind feel on your skin? How does the ground feel? Are there any objects around you that you can examine? Feel the weight or texture of an item.
  • What are 3 things you can hear? Pay attention to external sounds, tuning out the thoughts in your head. Can you hear a bird singing or the wind rustling leaves in the trees?
  • What are 2 things you can smell? Can you smell the earth, freshly mown grass, or fresh herbs in the garden?
  • What is 1 thing you can taste? This is a great opportunity for a harvest tasting. Provide each student with a taste of a crop grown in the garden. If you do not want to do a tasting at this time, just have students examine the taste of their mouth. Can you still taste toothpaste from brushing your teeth or lingering flavors from breakfast or lunch?

While this activity can teach students a technique for calming themselves in a stressful situation, it is also a great activity to explore and reflect in the outdoor classroom.