Relax with nature: Juvenile offenders learn mindfulness with park trip


PEMBERVILLE – A group of young men recently earned the privilege to leave their residence hall for a trek through nature.

On Aug. 4, 10 teens from the Juvenile Residential Center of Northwest Ohio visited William Henry Harrison Park and learned some relaxation techniques before taking a hike through the woods.

Emma Taylor asked the youth pay attention to the present moment and relax.

Taylor, who is a certified mindfulness teacher, has been with the Wood County Park District since 2001.

“We had a great time,” Taylor said about the two-hour program.

She and JRC Director Montana Crawford planned the morning trip.

Crawford said mindfulness, which is a coping skill to help the boys regulate their emotions on their own, is practiced daily at the JRC.

Taylor helped reinforce what was being taught in the center, he said.

“I hope that they can see when they take initiative, they can implement stuff on their own. They don’t have to have adults coaching them through it and they become more independent managing difficult emotions which will help them become more successful,” Crawford said.

The hike, which started at the shelter house, followed the woodland trail through the meadow and ended at the Portage River, where some of the teens sat on the riverbank and others chose to relax on rocks in the river.

“Some of the boys talked about feeling really peaceful on the river,” Taylor said.

She said her goal was to get them to pause and take a moment to relax and connect with nature in ways they haven’t before.

The center works with boys ages 12-18 who have been adjudicated for felony offenses.

The purpose of JRC is to provide treatment so when they are released, they can stay out of trouble, Crawford said.

Boys stay at the residential center on average between six months and one year.

This is the first nature walk planned for residents, Crawford said.

“I think it’s going to be a good experience for all of us to get more into nature … just get meditated into nature so we get more comfortable,” said a 15-year-old from Defiance.

The teens were allowed to comment if they remained anonymous.

“I hope I can see some spiders and maybe a snake,” he said with a laugh. “I love being outdoors.”

A 16-year-old from Cincinnati said it’s a good thing to get out of the center and explore the wilderness.

Being in nature reminds him of home, he said.

“I like to spend time outside,” said a 17-year-old from Port Clinton.

He said he earned the trip by showing positive behavior and letting center staff know they can trust him.

‘It means a lot,” he said about that trust.

“This is a privilege that they’ve earned, given their progress and treatment,” Crawford said about the 10 boys who made the trip.

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