Mental health and wellbeing

Young people’s mental health and wellbeing online.

Learning online can be a soulless business for children; ploughing through pre-made content or sitting in a class of peers they don’t have any genuine connection with. Families are increasingly turning to online learning as a response to Covid-19, but how do they make sure their children’s mental health and wellbeing are being looked after?

Hebden Bridge Learning Community thinks it has the answers. With years of experience of integrating mindfulness and yoga into children’s learning, they found that taking their community online during the lockdown was surprisingly positive, so much so that their students asked them to continue providing online learning alongside our in-person learning.

Their new online school is called The Learning Circle and it will address the mental health and wellbeing needs of the increasing numbers of children who are learning online.

Lead teacher Anil Sarna says “We try to make learning, fun, creative and personalised.Drawing from our experience in Hebden Bridge, we’ve combined what we already know works really well such as children and teachers making democratic decisions together about; choosing topics for learning and deciding what books to study in literature together with new elements that focus on wellbeing and making friendships” 

These include:

Wellbeing workshops. These weekly two-hour workshops include modules such as: how to look after difficult emotions, personal, social, health and economic education, student-led cookery classes, non-violent communication & conflict resolution.

Storytelling. We know that encouraging students to tell their personal stories enables them to feel that they can show up whole to school and not present just a public face. We facilitate storytelling in a variety of different ways. Once-a-term students and teachers are invited to put their names forward for the Gratitude Gift. We pick a name out of a hat and the chosen person gets £20. This can be spent in any way they like to thank someone special outside of their immediate family/peers. The only rule is that they must then share the story of what they gave, to whom they gave it and how the gift was received.

Keeping things small and personal. As our online school grows, it will do so in small, self-managed hubs which prioritise humanity over bureaucracy, along similar lines to the Buurtzorg healthcare model from the Netherlands.

Summer Camp! We’ve already been running an international summer camp for the last 3 years, one in Hebden Bridge, another in Barcelona and this year’s one in the Netherlands that we had to cancel. It’s a chance for students from all over the world to meet up and to experiment creating a democratic community together for a week. This will give our students the chance to cement online friendships and make new ones.

To make our online learning more soulful and involved we emphasise:

Being present. Our teaching is 100% live face-to-face. We believe that students benefit from having a teacher available throughout the learning day, especially online. At times when students are invited to work independently (write, think, create, discuss or do research) they will always have a teacher available to check in with whenever they need to.

Celebrating diversity. With students coming potentially from anywhere in the world it’s a huge opportunity to learn about different cultures through your class mates location and experience. Just pointing your camera outside your window can be fascinating and making friendships across borders has never been more important than it is now.

The Meditation bell/Singing bowl. We use a few chimes of the bell at the start and end of a class and other moments during the day. It is a way of coming home to ourselves. Taking a few deep breaths can be all we need to feel refreshed and renewed. We encourage students to have their own small (or big) bell at home and to either all chime together or take a breather with it whenever they need to.

We hope that The Learning Circle will make learning online as rich and supportive an experience as possible for everyone.