It is surprising sometimes how
significance can mushroom from quite small projects. My family are lucky enough
to own and run a small private nursery and I’m frequently asked to create
resources by our staff. One such recent request came from our pre-school room
leader who asked if I could make a robot for the children. Now, I am no
engineer, so mechanics were out of the question… but junk modelling? – that is
another matter, so the germ of an idea was born. Pet food boxes, Pringles
cannisters and other likely raw materials were accumulated over a couple of
weeks, till I had enough to start building. Armed with my trusty glue gun my
robot began to take shape over a weekend.
When I have created resources for the nursery before I prefer there to be a ‘back story’ rather than a new resource simply ‘arriving’, so when we did some work in our ‘secret garden’ one weekend, I took pictures and printed them into a little book showing the adventure ‘Daisy’ had been having and setting the children a bit of a treasure hunt (Daisy was actually a straw scarecrow bought for 50p from the local garden centre ‘end of stock’ bin). I therefore decided the robot had to have come from somewhere and there had to be a rationale for him/her to be here. Thus, alongside the construction, the back story began to take shape.
I suppose my childhood diet of sci-fi
and outer space during the 50s and 60s fuelled my imagination, so that’s where
he came from… a planet where robots worked hard, but no-one ever thanked them
for their endeavours. Because of this, robots never learned to experience
emotions. I’d found the key for the robot resource!
As the construction developed, I
coincidentally discovered that there is such a thing as magnetic paint, and
this is where the masterplan came together. I gave the robot a magnetic face
and made interchangeable facial features so that his/her expression could be
altered. I also wrote the accompanying story to get the children thinking about
showing care and gratitude, practicing good manners, thinking and talking about
emotions and showing empathy.
An informal follow up evaluation
a couple of weeks after the robot arrived showed the following:
Children loved changing the robot’s face and trying to copy his/her expressions.
Boys were particularly animated and engaged
Key workers were able to incorporate number work with the resource
The children talked about the different shapes making up his/her body
They walked like robots at music time and talked in ways they thought robots might talk
Children were heard encouraging each other to say please and thank you and generally be aware of their manners
It captured their imagination and follow-on activities included using tin foil to make and decorate their own robots.
With the teacher they built their own giant model of a robot they could climb inside
I have now had a request to
develop a sequel linking into the theme of recycling – this may just become the
reason s/he stays on Earth rather than returning to his/her own planet.
Supporting Children to be Mentally
Healthy: A Whole School Approach (CPD Session)
Written by Elisa Fellone-Scott, Year 3 student trainee on the BA (Hons) EYE with QTS programme
article I will be discussing the information for the recent training session
‘Supporting children to be Mentally Healthy: A Whole School Approach’. The
speaker at the CPD Session, Professor Jonathan Glazzard was clearly passionate
about mental health, being a Principal
Researcher in the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools.
This is a great research project supporting schools in making positive changes
to the educational system through providing information and resources on mental
health (Leeds Beckett University, 2019)
The World Health Organisation (2003:1) defines mental health
as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own
potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and
fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’
Often people think about teenagers and adults when poor
mental health is discussed, however, it is essential to understand how poor
mental health can impact children from the early years of life. The National
Health Service (2017) highlighted the child mental health is continually rising
and reported that 5.5% of children between the age of two and four experienced
a mental disorder. This raises questions as to why mental health is not
discussed more in primary schools and early childcare settings if it is a growing
concern (Nagel, 2016).
Potential Causes for Poor Mental Health
Poor mental health in children can be a result of
a range of factors including, individual disability, family conflict, neglect,
social deprivation, poor attachments and school culture. It is essential to
acknowledge that children are often more aware of things happening in their
environment that many people believe. Furthermore, school culture is a big
cause for stress due to testing, expectations and being in a new and busy
environment. Meyer’s (2003:8) model of stress explains that although stress may
affect everyone, people of minority tend to struggle with more stress due
‘distal’ and ‘proximal’ stress. Distal stress occurs when an individual
experience violence due to discrimination, on the other hand, proximal stress
is experienced when the individual anticipates that they we be discriminated
against. It is fundamental that practitioners are aware of the different types
of stress to get a true understanding of the child’s lifestyle and mental
A Whole School Approach
To improve mental health, it is essential that all areas of
school life are involved. This model taken from Public Health England (2015) highlights
that leadership and management teams are fundamental in implementing effective
strategies. To promote an ethos and environment grounded in respects and
diversity, schools should represent all faiths and cultures. This can be done
through multi-cultural displays and stories demonstrating different traditions
and beliefs. Curriculum teaching and
learning can support mental health through providing opportunities for the
children to discuss their feelings and reflect on their experiences. Student
Voice is evident through providing autonomy in the classroom, this could be
choosing stories to read to class representatives. The saying ‘you can not pour
from an empty glass’ is clear when it comes to teaching. Teacher’s mental
health needs to be healthy to ensure that they can help others around them.
Therefore, the staff should be given training on how to support their own mental
health as well as the children’s mental health and wellbeing. Identifying a
need through recognising the signs of mental health issues and using
interventions to help the child’s mental health. It is important to note that
in specific cases the practitioner should refer them onto specialists to help
the child. Finally, it is essential that practitioners work alongside parents
to help them support their child in their home life, this support could include
converting a part of the child’s room into a calming area or encouraging the
parents to help the child reflect on their feelings.
Signs of Mental Health Issues
Physical signs for example, bruises, cuts.
Changes in behaviour
Decline in progress
Lack of personal care
Lower attendance in school
Ask the child to rate an aspect of their life, for example,
their teamwork skill from one to ten. Once the child has answered the question,
the practitioner should ask questions such as,
Where would you say you are now?
What are you doing that makes you think you are
at this number?
What will tell you that you have moved one point
up the scale?
What might you be doing then that you are not
‘Where on the scale do you hope to get to over
the next [e.g. week]?
What will you be doing then that’s different?’
Exception Finding aims to find a time where the child
was not struggling to discover what could be the trigger for the problem.
When are the times that (the problem) doesn’t
happen as much?
Tell me about a time when (the problem) happened
but didn’t last as long?
When are the times when other people would
notice you (e.g. behaving, working, being kind…) in a good way?
When were things a little bit better for you?
What was different then?
Tell me about a time when (e.g. you stayed calm)
in that difficult situation?
Complimenting is focusing on small things that the
child has done well to help their self-esteem.
‘It seems to me you’ve somehow been able to keep
going with that, when things have been difficult, that you’re a person who can
keep going even when things are tough. Is that true about you?’
‘Something I’ve noticed today is that you’ve
answered every question I asked you, maybe with an “I don’t know” answer, or
maybe something else’.
Peer Mentors (Nagel, 2016) research found that
children are more likely to talk to their peers about problems as they fear
that adults will tell their parents. It is suggested that schools could train
some pupils to be key listeners and understand when to inform the teacher of
Meditation helps children relax and gives them the
opportunity to reflect on their day in a non-stressful way. These can be short
daily sessions or long less frequent session.
Calming Jar- Put water and glitter into a jar and the
child turns the jar and watches the glitter fall through the liquid, this is
beneficial as it calms the child down.
Nature- There is a vast amount of research on the
benefits of the outdoors on child mental health for example, children tend to
speak to more children when they are playing outdoors meaning that they are
more likely to build strong relationships.
Wellbeing Measurement Framework for Primary
Schools (Evidence Based Project Unit, 2017) is a framework in partnership with
Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. This framework a method
of measuring how mentally healthy children are by working with the child to
answer statements such as ‘I break things on purpose’ based on a never,
sometimes and always scale. Link: https://www.corc.uk.net/media/1506/primary-school-measures_310317_forweb.pdf
Mentally Healthy School Website (2019) is sponsored
by health charities such as Young Mind to provide information on mental health
as well as resources to support children with mental health issues. Link: https://www.mentallyhealthyschools.org.uk/
How do you support children wellbeing in your setting?
By Annabel Lewis, final year student on the BA Early Childhood Studies programme.
Early years is a pivotal stage of a child’s development, where learning is constantly taking place (Volchegorskaya and Nogina, 2014). The practitioner’s role requires the shaping and guiding of such learning in order for it to be meaningful and useful within children’s lives and to aid future development (Dubiel, 2014). An aspect of the practitioner’s role involves the assessment of young children; the process in which observations are carried out and recorded to make judgements on children’s developmental achievement (Dubiel, 2014). An example of this within early years education involves the assessment of children’s ability to identify objects that are shown on picture cards and observing how well they perform at this task. Thus, reinforces the deficit model that focuses on what children are unable to do, which then becomes the main focus for that child (Dubiel, 2014). Therefore, we need to question the importance and value of assessment within early years education and what detrimental effects this may have on children at such a young age. Through assessment practitioners are highlighting children’s weaknesses and making this apparent to young children themselves. In addition, Nutbrown and Carter (2012) state that children who sense early stages of failure are more likely to experience low self-esteem and therefore impacts further learning.
Although it is important and a requirement for practitioners to assess children’s levels of development in order to identify areas where children require further support, and the next steps for development can be planned to continuously encourage children’s learning and development (Drummond, 1993). In contrast, we need to understand what assessment means to young children and how it impacts their daily lives within educational settings. Research has found that school pressures which consists of testing children at a young age are closely linked to an increase in high levels of cortisol within children (Zeidner, 2007). It is also suggested that children develop feelings of fear, low self-esteem and failure in anticipation of a test which has detrimental effects on a child’s overall academic achievement (Ringeisen and Raufelder, 2012; Lohbeck, Nitkowski and Petermann, 2016). This implies that stress in young children caused by school pressures, such as assessments, results in children having a lack of motivation and engagement, and further portrays that children are less likely to perform well. Is testing children doing more harm than good? Children experiencing stress at such a young age can result in permanent effects to the developing brain such as having difficulties self-regulating their behaviour, being unable to concentrate and learn (Von Suchodoletz, Trommsdorff, Heikamp, Wieber and Gollwitzer, 2009). Further to this, persistent high levels of cortisol has been found to increase children’s risk of developing mental health problems in the future (Gunnar and Quevedo, 2007). It is evident that assessment has detrimental effects on young children such as causing high levels of stress, which in return decreases children’s academic performance. Practitioners are required to enhance children’s learning and to ensure that all children are developing to their best ability (DoE, 2017). In contrast, if practitioners are testing children at a young age; are practitioners encouraging children’s learning and development by causing anxiety and stress in children, or are there other ways in which children can learn and develop without the pressures of being assessed?
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DUBIEL, J., 2014. Effective Assessment in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Early Excellence, Huddersfield.
EARLY EDUCATION., 2017. Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) [online]. England: Department for Education. Available from: http://www.foundationyears.org.uk/files/2012/03/Development-Matters-FINAL-PRINT-AMENDED.pdf [Accessed 22 May 2019].
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