Anna May Thurchak, an English teacher at the Academy of the Holy Angels, devised a simple and powerful way to remind students to connect with nature and count their blessings. Her lesson was particularly poignant since it took place shortly after the Academy launched distance learning to help halt the spread of COVID-19.
 
Her students had just finished an online discussion of William Wordsworth’s “The World Is Too Much with Us,” a sonnet that criticizes the materialistic desires that separate humans from the natural world. Mrs. Thurchak asked her class to take a walk outside for a few minutes, even if that meant simply stepping out onto a porch or deck. While you're there, think about something you are thankful for. When you come back, share your gratitude with the rest of us,” Mrs. Thurchak instructed her class.
 
Kaitlyn G. wrote: “I am thankful for the smell of the clean cut grass, the beautiful trees, and the sense of community that is still strong in my town during this time.”
 
Areanna P. added: “I am thankful that my family and friends are healthy and that I have the safeness and calmness of my home. I am also thankful I could spend more time with my family and cat. During any extra time I am thankful I could learn time management skills, work on activities that aren't just for school, but for myself, and complete things at my own pace.”
 
Natalie N. shared: “I took a walk outside on my porch for five minutes, and as I thought, one thing that came to mind as something I am grateful for is my mother. She is constantly working every day in hospitals to help those who are sick, putting herself in danger, and is still willing to try to make others feel healthy again, while at the same time trying to provide for my family and me by making sure that we are healthy. I am grateful for her dedication to balancing her work life and home life, especially during this difficult time.”
 
Students also expressed their gratitude for:

  • Being able to chat with a neighbor.
  • Sunshine, wind, and blue sky.·     
  • Birds, chipmunks, and squirrels.
  • God, friends, and family.
  • The safe refuge of their homes.     
  • The ability to continue their academic work online.

After reading the students’ responses, Mrs. Thurchak wrote, “Ironically, I am feeling gratitude for technology. (Sorry, Wordsworth.) While sometimes our cellphones and computers keep us apart, now they are the very things that are keeping us connected. I'm also grateful for ALL OF YOU and how you're stepping up to this occasion, and I am thankful for this lovely day! Little flowers are popping up and the sunshine is delightful! My cup runneth over!”

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