A selection of ideas to instil positive mental health and wellbeing among your students at a time when they may need it the most.

Mill on the Brue Activity Centre

After such a turbulent 2020, it’s clear, more so than ever, that children’s mental wellbeing will be a priority looking ahead to the future. Following lockdowns, different restrictions and a huge chunk of time involving missed learning opportunities, here are several options to practise positive mental health among pupils.

Get pupils exploring their surroundings

Learning through Landscapes has launched a £275,000 pilot project, My School, My Planet, which aims to support schools during the Covid-19 pandemic by re-engaging pupils with their natural environment, supporting their wellbeing and encouraging a greater connection to their natural heritage through the delivery of an outdoor education programme. It will support pupils in exploring the likes of eco-systems, climate change and soil degradation, as well as other tasks to get children learning outside.

The project will initially focus on improving the outcomes of children and young people from disadvantaged ethnic groups and low socio-economic backgrounds who have the least access to a natural environment. If you work in a primary or secondary school that is passionate about improving the outcomes of disadvantaged pupils or marginalised communities, and are interested in being involved in the project, you can contact the team at msmp@ltl.org.uk.

If you are looking to give pupils more responsibility, then why not sign up to the free RHS Campaign for School Gardening? The campaign aims to provide children with gardening opportunities to enhance their own skills and boost development. According to the horticultural charity, taking part in the initiative improves physical and mental wellbeing and builds life skills such as confidence, teamwork and communication, among many other positive benefits. By registering, schools receive a free welcome pack containing seeds and free downloadable resources, as well as teacher training courses on how to make the most of your time outside with your pupils.

Kids planting seeds

The RHS encourages pupils to get planting.

Adapting residentials for day visits

Kingswood will be offering day trips at its centres which aim to condense a residential experience into one day full of activities. Ranging from zip wires, climbing and abseiling, pupils can improve their resilience, confidence and life skills on a visit, which will offer opportunities to focus on new challenges. The new activity days are currently scheduled to begin on 1st February 2021 at its sites, which include Grosvenor Hall in Kent, West Runton in Norfolk and Peak Venture in south Yorkshire.

Mill on the Brue Outdoor Activity Centre in Bruton, Somerset, has also adapted its offer to provide school day trips when the time is right, featuring five full hours of exciting and challenging activities to build that sense of achievement when completing a new task, which ultimately improves mental health. According to the team, a day trip also improves resilience, confidence and self-belief, as well as giving pupils the chance to bond with friends and teachers away from a classroom environment.

Dedicated to creating unique opportunities for young people, the YHA aims to provide unforgettable experiences for children across England and Wales, adapting its residential offer to include day visits at five of its centres for the future, with the hope of eventually adding more locations to the list. The five youth hostels that will offer the day visits are YHA Edale (Derbyshire), YHA Castleton Losehill Hall (Derbyshire), YHA Ilam Hall (Derbyshire), YHA Langdale (Cumbria) and YHA Whitby (Yorkshire). Looking ahead into 2021, the team are planning to provide their usual residential options, which range from self-led adventures to field studies and more, creating a special environment to get children positively engaged with their studies and on top of any worries they may be having.

Understanding the importance of nature

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust will offer new sessions linked to climate change and plastic pollution at a variety of its centres across the UK for future visits. A survey conducted by the charity YoungMinds revealed that 80% of children felt that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse, with the WWT encouraging schools to get children spending more time with nature to improve this. The ‘Climate Champions’ workshop gets pupils taking on the role of a leaf to see its importance in tackling climate change and the ‘Plastic Planet’ session will explore the problems wetlands face by pollution.

Winterfowl & Wetlands Trust

Source: Tom Hodgson

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has a whole range of educational experiences.

Similarly, the RSPB usually offers a variety of workshops across its wildlife reserves throughout the UK, featuring unique and hands-on activities to get pupils engaged in wildlife and nature. Whether it be half or full-day programmes, the team aims to inspire children with the resources around them, while also building their resilience and character in a tranquil environment.

With ten woodland centres to choose from nationwide, The Bushcraft Company is hoping to be able to offer its residential programme from May 2021, taking ages seven to 18-year-olds for up to five-day experiences. The trip includes sleeping in safari-style tented camps, cooking over open fires, shelter building, archery, wild swimming and a range of other enjoyable tasks which allow young people to become fully immersed in the wilderness.