Reaching out is a way to support others early before they need help the most or during a crisis. Sometimes, reaching out can be for a friend or yourself.
Brier Park and Branlyn are two schools that have initiated programs that clearly reaches out to their students at an early stage. Learn from these two examples on how they are supporting well-being.
Brier Park Bounces Back
Brier Park Elementary School is a wonderful example of a mentally healthy school and Principal Sandy Magnani ensures that her students are well-versed in knowing how to be well.
Brier Park started their journey with implementing mental health in the classroom with their Bounce Back program. This program focuses on worries, and stress, and what stress is for children.
Grade 2 teacher, Alysa Vanka said she was surprised at how many worries a child has at that age, which is why they have created the Worry Box.
The Worry Box is a box that each child makes and brings home with them that they are able to place their worries in. Each child places their worry box beside their bed, and every night before they go to sleep, they write down anything they are worried about, and put it in the box.
The Worry Box is a healthy strategy that teaches children that it is okay to have worries, and how to deal with, and get rid of those feelings in a healthy way. Vanka stated that after creating the Worry Box, children in her class are now comfortable with coming out and talking about the worries they have, and addressing how to deal with them.
Along with the Worry Box, Brier Park has also created the Worry Tree that is a place where students are able to cast away their worries. Students are encouraged to write down something that is worrying them, and then place it on the tree, leaving it behind.
Similarly, another resource that is available to the students at Brier Park is the Hug Me Tree. The Hug Me Tree has a list of strategies that children can utilize when dealing with worries or stress.
Each of these things are creating a change for the positive in Brier Park Elementary School.
According to Principal Magnani and Vanka, children are now realizing that they are not alone—they are not the only ones with these worries, and have a greater willingness to talk about it in the classroom, and with their peers.
Teachers at Brier park have noticed that more and more children and coming forward who are concerned about a friend, and telling caring adults about their worry. The children now know that this is a safe environment to talk to someone, and they know where to find the help.
Vanka stated that, “There are no bad children. There’s a reason why a child behaves the way that they do, and you have to figure out why that is” and the mental health resources at Brier Park are helping in leading each student, teacher, and parent in the mentally healthy direction.
Branlyn’s Colourful Zones Regulate Student Mental Health
Branlyn Community School is seeing an increase in empathy and self-regulation in students with the implementation of Zones of Regulation in classes.
The program gives students a common language for understanding a student’s emotional state of mind.
The Zones are broken into four colours that symbolize states of being. Blue is for low alertness or feeling tired, red is for intense emotions, yellow is for a heightened state of alertness, with the ability to be in control and green is for a state of calmness or focus.
Green is the state or mind and zone students aim to be in and are found to be at their most productive.
When asked what kinds of results the school had seen, Branlyn Principal Trudy Bell said, “We’ve seen an increase in engagement and an increase in positive change in our students”.
Zones of Regulation was introduced to the Junior Strategies Class in 2013. The program is intended to support students to better understand how they feel and why they feel a certain way.
After a one-year trial in 2013, the results were so positive that the program is now being implemented in all primary classes.
“The program is flexible based on the commitment of the teacher,” said Bell. “It can be implemented in smaller ways, or to be used fully, based on the preferences and needs of the class.”
Strategies’ teacher Lindsay Sheppard, who was one of the first teachers at Branlyn to use Zones, said, “The program teaches children resiliency and the ability to understand themselves so that they can move through the zones and work on the skills as they progress through school.”
Bell said one of the main benefits of the program is its ability to be changed and adapted based on the needs of each student.
She hopes to see all classrooms at Branlyn implementing the program by 2019.