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From Downward Dog to Knuffle Bunny, TC Week Wraps with Yoga, Children's Stories and Table Tennis

Published: 9/12/2013

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Yoga at Columbia University

Yoga at Columbia University.

From outdoor yoga at Columbia University to a pancake-and-sausage breakfast in Russell Courtyard, TC Week concluded on Saturday, Sept. 7, with a wide range of activities designed to support physical and mental health and to ready new students for the rigorous work ahead of them.

A 10 a.m. yoga class on the tree-shaded lawn in front of the Math Building at Columbia drew more than 50 new students, plus a few staff members and children. It was taught by Heather van Uxem Lewis, an interdisciplinary doctoral student at TC and certified Vinyasa instructor, who advanced practitioners and novices alike through a series of sun salutations and downward-facing dog poses. “You’re going to go through a lot of changes in the next few years,” Lewis said. “Allow this practice to evoke that change and the power of desire and freedom of choice that those changes will bring. Try to stay connected to that power. Please remember the courage that it takes to go through this year. It’s going to be hard, but it will toughen you up to do what it is you want to do.”

Waiting for the yoga class to begin, some new students reflected on their experiences during orientation and the first week of classes. Vicky Waldthausen, an English Education master’s student from Charlotte, N. C., said she had been “blown away” by her first two classes. “Professors let me think in a creative way about education. I’m so glad that I’m here.” Waldthausen, who graduated from the University of North Carolina and taught for some time in Romania, said she is embracing what she believes is TC’s signature philosophy of teaching and learning that “every student is brilliant, and a teacher’s job is to help them find that brilliance.”

Maun Sri, a master’s student in International Educational Development from Mumbai, India, had been enjoying field trips around New York City organized by TC’s Office of International Services, including sojourns to the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center. Sri, who is interested in education and development around the world, said she was enjoying her class in Human Rights in Africa and hoped to reinvigorate the Development in Southeast Asia student group, which has been dormant for the past few years.

Some yoga class participants went across 120th Street – now co-named Teachers College Way – to join a crowd of several hundred at a breakfast buffet in Russell Courtyard. At the lower level of the courtyard were nutrition and Body Mass Index consultations by Pamela Koch, Project Coordinator and Executive Director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education and Policy.

Near Koch was a table tennis “fun” tournament organized by TC’s Table Tennis Club. The group is recruiting competitive-level players for intercollegiate games, said Gang Bao, leader of the club and a database and server manager in the Communication and Information Services Office who grew up in Wunan, China. “We need five for the men’s team and five for the women’s team. We’re getting a lot of new students coming. I saw some people who are good enough.” Competitors need to be proficient in the game, but any student or member of the faculty or staff – at any ability level – may join the three year-old organization of about 100 members. The group plays on Saturdays in Grace Dodge Hall 545.

 In the Dining Room in Grace Dodge, about 30 young children of faculty and staff members were treated to a music and movement class taught by Claudia Cali, a doctoral student in Music Education and a music teacher at the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center at TC. She was followed by Brianne Lynch and Grace Yee, Literacy Specialist students, who gathered the children in front of the fireplace in the dining room and read stories such as Knuffle Bunny:  A Cautionary Tale, by Mo Willems; and Eric Carle’s classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

As the children danced, sang and played in the dining room with parents and caretakers looking on, a group of 26 students, faculty and staff engaged in the quieter pursuit of meditation upstairs in Grace Hall 179. They were led by Daniel Caffarel, a master’s student in Psychological Counseling and member of TC’s Mindfulness and Education Working Group (MEWG), which explores and promotes the role of mindfulness and contemplative practice in education.

For more information on the Mindfulness and Education Working Group visit http://bit.ly/19Bo0gt or contact mindfulness@tc.edu.

To learn more about the Table Tennis Club contact Gang Bao at bao@tc.columbia.edu or visit http://bit.ly/1e9YswS.