Taking It to the Forest!

2021-06-03

By Gerry Oshman

VIS students—and teachers—have been busy “forest bathing” over the past few weeks!

My first outdoor activity, organized by Ms. Oksana, was with Grade 9 students. On Monday, May 17, students debated the topic “Is love worth dying for?”, as a supplement to our unit on love poetry. For TWO hours, students held a passionate debate in Bernediniu Park—in the pouring rain! What could be more romantic than that?

The next day, May 18, again arranged by Ms. Oksana, all Grade 8 students held a Reader’s Theater of select passages from The Alchemist. Students showed much preparation and passion in their performances. As well, there was a good bit of humor, including Karl’s Mickey Mouse voice for Santiago’s part, and our honorary school mascot, Foxy, the terrier mix, running off with one of Rasmus’s and Jurgis’s props (an enormous branch), used in their reenactment of a scene from Lord of the Flies.

The fun continued with a hike with both Grade 8s on Wednesday, May 19. Organized by Ms. Ieva, our inveterate trekker, a large group of us, including Ms. Oksana, Mr. Donald, myself, and Foxy, and Grade 8 students, met at our starting point, the Cookie Factory. We trekked through Uzupis, Paupijos, and Markucai, then up a steep hill, into Pavilniu Park. We headed towards Belmontas, where we took a short break, then back on the trail to the summit there. We said goodbye to a few students at that spot, but most of us continued to Uzupis Jewish Cementary, onto Stalo Kalnas and finally, our destination—the Hill of Three Crosses. Grade 8 students put about 18 kilometers on their Keds that day! Go Grade 8!

May 20, Thursday, Ms. Ieva and I (and Foxy) did a similar hike with Grade 6DN, but toned down a bit. Taking a slightly different, but no less gorgeous, trail, we logged in about 10 kilometers. The next day, May 21, we did the same with 6ZP, with a slight detour that offered a spectacular view of Vilnius covering about 13 kilometers.

After a weekend of rest, we were back on the trails on Monday! On May 25, Ms. Laima joined me for a hike with 7IK, and with only one day in between, on Wednesday Ms. Giedre and I took 7GG on the trails for a “homeroom hike,” as Liepa V. put it! Naturally, Foxy joined  these hikes, too, but by Wednesday, was somewhat less enthusiastic! All in all, Foxy and I logged in close to 80 kilometers, altogether on the trails, and countless fond memories with Grades 6 through 8 students.

My latest outdoor activity was a more relaxed forest bathing, spending one of our last homeroom lessons with Grade 7 students and homeroom teachers, Ms. Kotryna, Ms. Ieva, and Ms. Giedre, in Bernediniu Park. Students did a guided body scan, while spread out on the grass. (Special thanks to the gardener who stopped cutting the grass and gave us some quiet!) I’d never seen Grade 7 students still for so long! Afterwards, we walked up the steps to the stadium, where we practiced a walking meditation, paying attention to our steps and all our senses. We finished up in small groups, with students sharing three things that they are grateful for.

Speaking of grateful, I feel so thankful to have had these unique opportunities to spend time with students, get to know them a bit better, and reconnect after so many months apart. Thanks to all who organized, contributed, and shared in these great outdoor activities!