A focus on mindfulness and child wellbeing
Cognita Schools around the world share insights into a few of their many staff and student wellbeing activities
The mental wellbeing of children and young people is a subject of much interest around the world. With Children’s Mental Health Week taking place 6th-12th February, we take a brief look at how a number of schools in the Cognita family are focusing on mindfulness and child wellbeing across the globe.
The definition of Mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”. International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) has been teaching this practice to its students since 2013 to empower them to take charge of both their education and their future.
Adrian Watts, head of school at ISHCMC, says, “From the beginning, this was a whole school initiative that was designed to underpin the move towards becoming a Positive Education school. All ISHCMC students do ten minutes [of mindfulness practice] every morning lead by either their advisory teacher, or a group of students called ‘masters of mindfulness’. There are many different mindfulness activities that are pursued by the students ranging from meditation to mindful drawing..”
ISHCMC’s focus on mindfulness was the subject of an in-depth article in Asia Life, which you can read here.
Not only are the students reaping the benefits of a more mindful way of life with a positive impact on their academic results and experience, they are bringing it home to their parents. ISHCMC has run 8-week courses for parents to learn about mindfulness and introduce them to its practices and these have been very popular.
In the UK, staff at Huddersfield Grammar School completed a Mental Health First Aid training day with MHFA – England this month and feedback from staff has been incredibly positive. Additional training in this area has included Mindfulness training for the staff which has, again, been very well received. This was a longer 12-week program and the school is now incorporating a session for Year 11 students to help with their emotional wellbeing prior to taking their GCSEs. For this, they called on Tim Moore, a local mindfulness trainer, as well as utilising resources from the Mindfulness in School Project website (https://mindfulnessinschools.org/).
At Duncombe School in Hertfordshire, staff have been teaching in a variety of environments. This has led to Year 6 pupils visibly flourishing in their class assembly, which staff attribute to a particularly pleasant environment. Inspired by articles in the media about ‘nature deficit disorder’, a Year 5 maths class has been taken outside into the wider school grounds to conduct mathematical investigations. Tom Le Tissier, Director of Learning, says, “I do feel that this variety of stimuli is beneficial to the children; their brains are working overtime to take everything in and yet, they still showed how well they could focus and all made excellent progress in the lesson. They were engaged, asking and answering a lot of questions and had fun as they did it.”
At PlayPen Escola Cidade Jardim in Brazil, a week with the main theme of “mental health” included lectures on topics such as quick massage and decision support tools, while in the classroom, staff and students learned about mindfulness, with breathing exercises and concentration at the centre of the sessions. Their sports programme also had a different focus for the week as students were given the opportunity to try new activities including “Slackline” and “Battle of Sumo”.
Meanwhile, a technique called “harmonising pauses” or “pedagogical active pauses” is being used by staff across Cognita’s ten schools in Chile. These are “small pauses” designed to exercise the body and mind. These are employed during long periods of academic activity and different techniques, exercises and / or play strategies are implemented that help reduce periods of stress. These active pauses within the classroom have been described by teachers as “a necessity”, with direct outcomes reported by staff including better health, improvement in performance and attention, as well as a reduction in stress levels.
Children’s mental health and overall wellbeing is a central focus for all schools in the Cognita group and this is just a snapshot of some of the activities and initiatives that have been successfully rolled out across the world.