Russley School began the year with the introduction of a Wellbeing Curriculum that focuses on the use of well researched instructional tools that support student wellbeing. ‘Relationships and Resilience’ is the over-arching theme for the introduction of ‘MindUp’ a comprehensive, classroom-tested, evidence-based curriculum which is easy to use. It promotes and develops mindful attention to oneself and others, tolerance of differences and the capacity of each member of the community to grow as a human being and a learner. The children learn about their brain and how it works.
The lessons include repetition of the Core Practice - deep belly breathing and attentive listening. These skills must be repeated for a few moments every day throughout the school year. The books are levelled, include previously learned skills/tools and build on prior knowledge activities.
A second resource being used is ‘Bounce Back’. This resource teaches social-emotional learning skills that underpin wellbeing and resilience. It uses games, drama, books, activities and Circle Time as vehicles of delivery.
The activities in these two resources are being linked to ‘Sparklers’ which can be found on the ‘All Right?’ website. The focuses are on managing emotions, feeling good and being ourselves. Sparklers 50+ activities teach children things they can do to stay calm, manage worries, be kind and feel good. http://sparklers.org.nz/
Staff professional development has included research completed by Dr Kathleen Liberty and her team at the University of Canterbury with the Juniors Settling In and Learning Strategies project. This project arose following the Christchurch earthquakes and aims to assist schools to provide calm and settled environments for children to learn effectively. One of the strategies we are looking to implement is a ‘Play, Eat, Learn’ timetable. The aim of this is to decrease arousal levels prior to learning, so the quality of the learning and the ability to focus and concentrate improves. Research shows the body physiologically responds differently to the two activities – playing and eating. Play – the body response is more aroused and heightened. Eat – the body response is to natural calm.
When eating occurs after play, the body has a chance to calm and the children are better placed to be ready for learning. Arousal levels fall.
A further strategy is called Water – drink to think, think to drink. As part of the project, we encourage all students to have water bottles to use in class time, so that they stay hydrated.