School Name: Walnut Park Elementary
School District: SD#54 Bulkley Valley
Inquiry Team Members: Leone MacDonald: Leone.firstname.lastname@example.org, Nicole Davey: email@example.com, Birgit Laskowski: Birgit.firstname.lastname@example.org, Jana Fox: Jana.fox.sd54.bc.ca
Inquiry Team Contact Email: Sandra.email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Physical & Health Education
Focus Addressed: Other: Mental Health
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How will the direct teaching of Mental and physical health improve student success?
Scanning: We noticed through parent conferences, vulnerability index, attendance and observations that mental health would be a focus for the year. We noticed that our learners had varying backgrounds and ‘levels’ of mental wellness that we wanted to address. We had a couple of students with trauma experiences and very low attendance. We used the FPPofL to ensure that we looked at all areas of our students lives and experiences. That our scan was authentic and we included many personnel resources within our school and district including our Indigenous resource workers, District Principal, District culture teacher and counselors.
Focus: With specific students in mind, we decided to make mental wellness a focus. We wanted to de stigmatize mental health, make it visible, have students be self-aware, have mental wellness ‘literacy’ and develop relationships with support people.
Hunch: Our hunch came from several places – personal experiences, new curriculum, increased prevalence within our student population, talking with parents and working with our District Social/Emotional helping teacher who is also a counselor. We also changed things like ‘late slips’ to ‘check in slips’ so there wasn’t a negative associated with coming to school late. We also have a ‘hunch’ that more of our students have challenging life experiences, added ‘stimulus’ such as Social Media and varying degrees of stress and anxiety from a variety of sources.
New Professional Learning: Several resources were fabulous! We relied heavily on the unit developed by our District Social/Emotional helping teacher and then added into and onto it for our own learners. We had a social media safety session with The White Hatter Team, and used sites like KeltyMental Health, Anxiety BC, Canadian Mental Health Commission, and the work of Kim Schonert-Reichl. We also had Jana Fox co-teach several lessons around how does mental wellness and mental health look like for many Indigenous Peoples?
Taking Action: After a series of lessons where students learned about anxiety, depression, stress, suicide prevention, healthy relationships, etc. We also had several lessons around mental wellness in our Indigenous communities. Students then prepared a ‘fair’ to share their learning with the adults in our school, district and parents. They set up interactive stations where participants could learn more about each topic. This was VERY powerful as students became the experts in teaching adults what they need to know in order to support youth.
Checking: We feel that this made a significant difference for our learners. Not only were they able to vocalize when they were anxious, stressed or worried, but they had tools to manage their mental wellness and the knowledge of how to be healthy. For one particular student who previously had missed the equivalent of 3 years of school, she attended the most days this year. We also used satisfaction surveys, parent communication, observations and student journal reflections. We found that our learners were more apt to take risks with their learning. That they trusted each other, developed good relationships and applied their learning visibly. We also noticed that students were more engaged in classroom and school activities and participated more in things like sports, leadership and volunteer options.
Reflections/Advice: Our next steps include;
1. Doing this again next year – starting earlier
2. Developing a district scope and sequence of lessons from grades 4-7
3. Sharing our lessons and experience with other teachers
4. Becoming involved with the We Wellness program (Me to We)
5. Developing a common language within our schools.