We held our very own Science Fair in RETNS in November. The fair was organised and hosted by students in 5th and 6th class and attended by children from JI to 4th class, who were amazed at what they discovered. Here are just some of the pictures of the Science Fair.
Published in In Touch magazine, December 2015
Bouncing Away is the first mental health book in Ireland created by children for children. The book, funded by the Mental Health Services HSE Sligo/Leitrim/W Cavan, gives insight into children’s own perspectives on how they stay happy and how they cope during tough times. Developed by children aged 8 to 12 years old in Sligo from the HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), the HSE Community Psychology Service (PCCC) and a local primary school, the book provides an essential resource for other children, parents and healthcare practitioners who are interested in understanding and supporting children’s mental health.
Bouncing Away was developed through a collaborative process led by Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership. Artist Vanya Lambrecht Ward and writer Lisa Vandegrift Davala worked alongside the children over a two-month period, during which time they developed artwork and shared their own experiences, which guided the concept of the book. The focus of the project was on building confidence, fostering self-esteem and developing alternative ways for the children to express themselves through art and storytelling. Bouncing Away serves as a resource for all children, encouraging them to talk about their feelings, the ups and downs that life can bring, and how we cope and bounce with them.
The book will have nationwide distribution, to schools, libraries and HSE mental health services, in order to reach and support children, parents and healthcare practitioners everywhere. For more information visit www.kidsown.ie.
In the recent past, pupils in RETNS took part in the Growing Up in Ireland survey which looked at children’s well-being from their own point of view. Questions in this wide-ranging survey gave information on how happy children are today, how they feel about school, how well they interact with their peers, how they feel about themselves, their appearance, etc. A recently published report on Wellbeing and School Experiences among 9 and 13 Year Olds ‘examines how individual, classroom and school factors shape children’s self-image’ (Primary school experiences and child wellbeing, Dr. Emer Smyth, Research Professor, Economic and Social Research Institute)
A number of interesting facts have emerged, one being that schools make a big difference to child wellbeing, with child self-image being more positive in schools with more than 100-200 students than in small schools. In addition, social relationships, both with teachers and with other children, are important influences on child wellbeing. Dr. Smyth reports that schools and classrooms can make a difference to children’s views of themselves and suggests that the findings point to the importance of supporting teachers in using approaches which engage students with different abilities and self-images. Sports participation was found to be supportive of wellbeing, not simply for the physical benefits but because it ‘fosters a sense of belonging and fulfilment’.
It is clear from this survey that the nature of the pupil-teacher relationships and classroom climate are very important factors in relation to a child’s self-image. This echoes the statement in Wellbeing in Primary Schools (Jan 2015, DES, HSE joint publication) which stated that,
‘While many factors which influence a child’s well-being are located in the home or wider society, schools can be a powerful force in enhancing protective factors and/or minimising risk factors.’
These findings have obvious repercussions for schools and the creation of a positive, supportive and inclusive school climate is something all schools should strive for.
Recently a one day symposium entitled ‘Emotional Wellbeing – at the heart of school communities’ was held to discuss this whole area; ‘to challenge current thinking on how emotional wellbeing is handled in the education sector and to build on existing work in this area’. An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, addressed the symposium, and said,
‘We must do our best to create the best and safest space for our children in our schools – a space that allows them to be who they are – and to be valued for it’. He went on to say that as parents and teachers we cannot make children happy,
‘Rather what we can and must do is give them the skills that will make them reflective, thoughtful, questioning, observant and resilient. Because resilience is what will sustain them through their lives.’
In 2014 the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) held education workshops in an attempt to hear young people’s views on what the key aims of education should be. From over 700 children and 30 schools the key themes and priorities were:
- developing life skills
- promoting health and well-being
- supporting personal and social development
- developing communication skills
To quote one student’s comment:
‘Every child should leave school with self-confidence…I think they would get that if school focused a bit less on academic work and more on personal growth’.
Child wellbeing? Maybe it is the children who have the answers!
Wellbeing and School Experiences among 9 and 13 Year Olds can be downloaded at www.esri.ie.