International College Hong Kong
Aug 28, 2018

Tree Bathing: a human technology

One of the advantages of ICHK's Human Technologies approach is that it finds a proper place in school for many activities that the mainstream curriculum neglects or ignores.

HT suggests that we can support our growth and sense of satisfaction in our lives by attending to the ways in which we deploy technologies in five different categories of being: somatic (our bodies), cognitive (our thinking), material (our use of physical tools), social (our relationships with others) and spiritual (our understanding of ourselves). The five categories overlap, are rarely experienced wholly independently of each other, and a healthy lifestyle surely presumes developing an appreciation of them all. Typically, however, school tends to focus on just two of the five categories - the cognitive and the material. That is, school tends to be about 'academics' and the use of devices that augment academic study, at the cost of all else. Where the other categories find space, it is often peripheral or constrained.

HT, on the contrary, suggests that we overlook or fail to provide for the three Ss at our peril. Our senses of wellbeing and self-esteem are inescapably caught up in the ways in which we experience our bodies, in our relationships with others, and with the extent to which we get to grips with what makes us tick as individuals, in a world we must share with others. Losing sight of these truths jeopardizes our capacity to live a positive and rewarding life.

It was encouraging, then, to read an article on the website Sharp Brains (found here), which discusses the physical and mental health benefits of taking a walk in a forest. Based on a review of a recent book by Japanese medical doctor and researcher Qi Ling, the article explores the positive effects of getting out of doors and into nature. Shinrin-yoku or tree bathing, as the Japanese term the practice of deliberately taking a leisurely, meditative stroll among trees, is a human technology that we have long included in our HT curriculum. It is pleasing to read further evidence that diversifying the school experience for our students introduces them to routines that will safeguard their wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

And, as recent research in Hong Kong and China makes clear, this is no small matter. Transcending our increasingly urban lifestyles is not just a matter of somatic and spiritual uplift, it is also a means of redressing the toxic effects on our cognition of too much time spent in polluted environments.

Reading the two linked articles, the popularity of hiking in Hong Kong takes on a new and welcome significance. And we remind parents that we traditionally build in a Family Hike as part of the welcome programme when the students from our sister school in Negren visit around Chinese New Year. Further information nearer the date - you will be very welcome to join and experience the enhanced thinking that comes with walking in nature!

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