By Daisy Whittingham of handsam.education
Foresight’s Mental Capacity and Wellbeing Project drew on worldwide research and evidence to compile the resource Five Ways to Mental Wellbeing. Foresight conduct yearlong projects in conjunction with government departments around utilising new and emerging science in policy composition. The project aimed to consider and advise upon how to improve everyone’s mental capital and mental wellbeing throughout life. The findings suggest that even amending behaviour slightly around the suggested points, can help reduce mental health problems, promote a positive outlook and encourage achievement. The five points identified by the project communicate with the well-recognised benefits of school trips and outdoor learning, from increasing social awareness and experiencing new things, to making children more confident, curious and healthy. In a society where the mental health of children is becoming an increasingly pressing issue and schools become the front line in identification and prevention, Handsam looks at the top five school trip destinations for pupil mindfulness using the actions identified by the report:
1) Connect - how we interact with people, the friends we make and conversations we have form a huge part of our daily lives and it is important we take the time to promote and enrich them. Positive, trusting and generous bonds with family, friends and colleagues bolsters out mental health by making us more comfortable and communicative. What better way to connect more fully with school friends and colleagues than through shared endeavour? Go Ape are an outdoor adventure provider with sites across the country that require participants to work together to traverse high rope courses. They promise to provide unforgettable outings for all ages through their tree top obstacle courses set in green parks and woodlands. Up in the trees your students will foster connections by offering a hand to a friend to help them cross a wobbling bridge or being the encouraging voice on the other side of a daring jump.
2) Be Active - exercise boosts your mood through the release of endorphins and is one of the most effective ways to promote mental health and wellbeing. The energy rush released by exercise tackles anxiety, takes on depression and even curbs conditions such as PTSD. Active lifestyles build brain cells and resilience, so why not climb a mountain? Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, kept in immaculate condition by the hard work of the National Trust and is just waiting for your class to conquer to it. There are 6 different routes available to scale the 1085 metre peak, meaning you can climb it slow or fast, take 20 breaks or two, 8 hours or 4, because this is your climb! Think of the achievement when you reach the summit. There is also a train available which can carry you up and down the mighty summit (because it is always good to have a backup).
3) Take Notice - This may sound simple, but in an education environment that is increasingly demanding it is easy to move through the day with your head down, immersed in tasks and following the same set pattern. Pausing for a second to note the beauty of your surroundings and savouring a moment, reminds you of the world around you and of how you are feeling. Stratford Upon Avon is one of the nation’s most beautiful and creative locations, around every cobbled street corner your cannot help but take notice of sights and sounds, from the meandering Avon with white swans to the colourful barges. Highlights include Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Schoolroom and Guildhall, while the theatres will expose your class to the wonderful work of the bard; explore the magical with Puck, dive into the heroic with Henry V or dwell in the romantic with Romeo.
4) Keep Learning - humans need to keep learning and stay curious, it is vital to our development. Point four encourages us to head out to try something new and challenge our minds to achieve. Learning new things makes you more confident and encourages you to push yourself into fresh experiences, while also having lots of fun! Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke is a complete Victorian pottery factory where you class can take part in pottery classes and learn about the heritage of the trade in the city. There are opportunities available for all age groups, including shaping animals, art deco painting and tile design. Pottery is a fabulous social and creative outlet, but also a recognised stress killer. Bonus!
5) Give - Everyone feels that bit better when they have done something selfless and made the world a little brighter. Point five asks that we simply give. Community is a vital part of mental wellbeing and seeing yourself as an active and valued part of a friendly society fosters connections and makes happiness a universal pursuit. The Dogs Trust is an animal welfare charity that promises never to put a healthy dog down. The charity runs a huge variety of free interactive workshops with a dog theme at their rehoming sites across the country. With dedicated Education and Community Officers, your class will learn about being a responsible dog owner and how to be safe around dogs through challenges, role play and debates which communicate with the national curriculum (plus having a good old play with the rescue dogs if you want to!). This increases children’s confidence, communication skills and teamwork as well as making them more equipped to become responsible members of society. The Mental Health Foundation explains how just sitting with an animal, stroking or talking to it has a hugely calming and fortifying effect on the mind. Endorphins are released when humans stroke an animal’s fur and by focusing on the needs of a dependent creature the mind is distracted from worries and pain. Why not take along some donations too! Dogs Trust really appreciates financial donations, but also blankets and toys. Ask your local shelter how you can help. You can also sponsor a canine long term.
It may feel like common currency to promote activity and sociability, creativeness and generosity amongst young people, but these values are often less present than you think and even less well known is their importance for good mental health. School trips demonstrate to young people the benefits of fulfilling these simple steps to mindfulness. They show the stressed student that pausing to look at the world around them is a peaceful reminder of continuity. They show the nervous pupil that they are resilient and capable, through challenging activities which connect them with their peers. School trips work towards making mindful activities second nature to children and young people, in a society that has increasingly less time for them.
HandsamSchoolTripsAdvisor can help you plan the perfect mindful outing, with a bank of trip ideas and resources around preparation and risk assessment. This free resource is regularly updated with the latest news and provides the opportunity for feedback on key destinations to help you find the right school trip venue for you. Make sure you sign up for regular updates.
Encouraging pupils to follow these five simple steps can help improve mood, reduce stress and build resilience which in turn will encourage achievement. The Five Ways to Well-being make up part of the PSHE Resilience and Mental Health Awareness workshops which Altruist Enterprises deliver to young people in schools. To find out more, please click here.