School excursions and school incursions teaching students to learn how to bounce back and help their emotional wellbeing
Each day, life throws us curveballs. An argument. Bitter disappointment. Feeling lonely. Feeling sad. Or just feeling out of sorts. The challenge is learning how to bounce back from setbacks and thrive despite them.
Our young people are learning to navigate the world, and their tools to do so including co-operating with others, developing resilience, dealing with conflict, learning how to make friendships; and recognising and managing their own feelings.
Schools can play a pivotal role in providing students with the opportunity to gain greater social and emotional awareness and to practice interpersonal skills as they learn and grow.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) programs use an evidence-based approach that can be taught explicitly in the classroom. Strategies may include:
Timetabling the explicit teaching of SEL for all classes on a regular basis: This may be weekly or fortnightly and may be as short as 10-15 minutes.
Building teacher capacity to promote and explicitly teach SEL: This may include exploring literature around SEL, attending professional learning about SEL or team teaching with a staff member who is comfortable and already explicitly teaching SEL.
Students construct a ‘getting to know me’ book at the beginning of the school year: This book will help children and young people identify and recognise their emotions and their origins. This activity allows students to practice the language of social and emotional awareness; and should be integrated into the explicit teaching of SEL.
Encouraging children and young people to consider the social and emotional wellbeing of others: through concepts such as ‘checking on others in our school…’ or ‘talking it out…’ Students will be able to practice responses to realistic scenarios using role plays or story writing as an opportunity to discuss, debate, and negotiate class agreement as to the ‘right’ decision in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of others.
Social and emotional learning can help students learn the competencies and skills they need to build resilience and effectively manage their emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.
School excursions and incursions that focus on SEL can also be incorporated into the curriculum to help teach SEL.
According to Christine Sully, the Director of Workshops that Work, children learn best when they are in their ‘happy place’ or ‘green zone.’
‘Every child has the right to know how it feels to be in their green zone and to relish learning and being happy. It’s normal for children to experience being ‘up’ regulated and ‘down’ regulated every day; however to get the most of school it’s imperative children start learning and practicing transitioning back to the green zone when they need to. We call this learning to self-regulate.’
Christine works with children to help them recognise when their wellbeing energy cup is running low – and how and when they can refill it.
‘Children with a healthy energy cup can generally self-regulate with a lot more ease. Some fill their energy cup with meditation, yoga, mindfulness, while others find these activities very boring or challenging. Others prefer physical activity, dancing or playing with a pet.’
Christine uses a variety of music, dance, movement, drama, stories, posters and puppets during her incursions. ‘I also have bucket loads of tips and ‘tricks’ to use to help children get back to their calm green zone when someone has upset them, they have an exam or feel anxious (yellow) or depressed (blue) or out of control (red).’
Workshops that Work (formerly part of Incursions R Us) offer wellbeing, cultural and resilience incursions. For more information: www.workshopsthatwork.com.au
Values for Life Incursions provide dynamic workshops that are engaging, fun and educational on topics such as anti-bullying, cyber-safety, resilience, leadership and drug education.
‘As a teacher myself, I have found that students engage so much more with the material we present when we present through a variety of games, activities, discussion and multi-media where students feel part of the learning process, have a voice and are engaged in their learning. Our aim is to not only have fun but to empower students, providing learning outcomes that engender pro-social values, empathy and resilience through a lively combination of information and interaction,’ said Tim Powell, from Values for Life Incursions.
Values for Life Incursions is a program of Concern Australia – a non-profit organisation that has various welfare-based programs that aim to help marginalised and at-risk youth.
‘It began with the purpose of being preventative and proactive in addressing and promoting wellbeing within schools before young people might be involved in our other programs that deal with homelessness, drug addiction and family breakdown,’ said Tim.
‘Having been involved with the program for 20 years as a presenter I have seen more specifically issues of young people dealing with cyber-bullying, anxiety and resiliency within the past 10 years and continue to be encouraged by the impact we make by equipping them with practical tools and challenging them to think about their values and how they treat others within their community.’
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning identifies five broad headings under which SEL falls:
Self-awareness Identifying and recognising emotions, recognising personal interests and strengths and maintaining a well-grounded sense of self-confidence.
Self-management Regulating emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and motivating oneself to persevere in overcoming obstacles; setting and monitoring progress toward the achievement of personal and academic goals; and learning how to express emotions appropriately.
Social awareness Being able to take the perspective of and empathise with others; recognising and appreciating individual and group similarities and differences.
Relationship skills Establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships based on cooperation and resistance to inappropriate social pressure; preventing, managing, and constructively resolving interpersonal conflict; and seeking help when needed.
Responsible decision-making Making decisions based on a consideration of all relevant factors, including applicable ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms; the likely consequences of taking alternative courses of action; evaluation and reflection.