The pandemic has created a threshold in education, a long awaited opportunity to shed old skin, a portal to a new paradigm. How to seize the moment? How to heal the relational poverty endured this past year? By prioritising relationships, health and the developmental journey of staff as much as students, schools can step through the portal to rebuild a healthier school ecosystem.
What is Growing Healthy Schools?
Growing Healthy Schools (GHS) provides an emergent community-building process that helps schools create a flourishing ecosystem. The process embraces young people and staff as agents who are able to take decisive roles in growing healthier schools.
GHS is a journey to embark on, with a variety of access points, rather than being an ‘off-the-shelf’ programme. Through community-building processes, experienced in-school and in nature, staff and students are given space to build trusting relationships and empathic connection, whilst developing ways to support their individual and collective wellbeing.
Participants nurture the self-awareness and eco-system awareness needed to create a healthy vision, and ultimately lead themselves there.
A Whole School Approach
GHS is a community-oriented approach that enables students and staff to;
How It Works
No school is the same, and so no two programmes should be either. Growing Healthy Schools nurtures the same care and attention to every school as we would to any natural ecosystem. The process is built to be adapted and evolved over time and to compliment the developmental work already taking place in school.
Initial Co-Design Process
Identifying an aspect of school life to focus on, establishing a Core Group of students and/or adults to participate in the Initial Co-Design Process (3 conversations/workshops), agreeing how and where to take action.
Small Steps, Big Changes
Offer of tailored support to take initial targeted actions, drawing on our building blocks (below) or by making connections to useful peer educators and institutions.
Turning Vision into Reality
Enabling learning partners to take over and lead their own delivery, delivering training and support to up-skill appropriately. The Core Group support iterative cycles of activity delivery, adapting and evolving as needed.
A ‘council’ circle is a form of group communication that harnesses the power of personal sharing, attentive listening, open dialogue and creative expression. We lead and train staff and students to facilitate and embed these in school life. It can be used to enrich form time, extra-curricular activities, PSHE, detention, staff meetings… the options are endless!
Coming together in circle is one of our most ancient forms of connecting, seen across cultures throughout history and can be used to explore important topics in an adolescent’s life, navigate conflicts healthily and address any concerns in school in a safe and supported way. Councils help develop oracy skills, promote authenticity, build trust, empathy, compassion and create authentic connection. Those involved feel seen, heard and affirmed a sense of belonging and safety. It’s hard to go back once you’ve experienced a space that is as accepting and supportive as a council circle.
Communities of Practice
The Core Group involved can develop into a Community of Practice around a specific theme (e.g. school culture, mental health, environmental action). This gives students and staff real ownership and a framework to steward their vision. Additionally, this democratic process develops agency, participation and engagement across the school, whilst creating important feedback loops that inform collective decision making.
Co-designing Rites of Passage
Adolescence is a tricky, uncertain time of change in a youth’s identity, relationships and responsibilities. Through rites of passage experiences schools can provide the space, mentorship and public affirmation youth need to develop a positive sense of self and transition healthily into adulthood. The three phase approach invites us to enquire into the change we wish to see (in ourselves and in the world), to take action and integrate these changes into our everyday lives.
Through rites of passage, communities co-create and model holistic ways to initiate young people into healthy adulthood. These events unlock their potential and celebrate each person’s unique strengths whilst also having the reciprocal benefit of strengthening social bonds and relationships between young people and adults.
A rite of passage could start as small as an enrichment curriculum and build towards including residential experiences and community social action. We draw on Dr David Blumenkrantz’s pioneering work in youth and community development through rites of passage and utilise his 20 Elements as a guiding framework to help schools create community-oriented transformative rites of passage for young people and staff.
Our Peer Mentoring Journey provides a framework to support older students and their mentees to model trusting & joyful relationships to the rest of the school and help both groups navigate big transitions in their lives. This is ideally delivered through a mentor training followed by peer-led mentoring sessions, supported by our practical resources and session plans.
Participants take action, conduct research with the wider school community, and critically reflect around the guiding question “what are we doing to support youth into adulthood?” The deeper understanding helps identify further actions towards enacting a shared vision.
We organise community camps that gives undisrupted space for deeper enquiry, reflection and connection. We live together ‘off-grid’ to forge lasting bonds, revitalise our wellbeing and practice regenerative living. As well as rekindling our connection to nature, the experience provides new perspectives and inspiration that enhance everyday life. It’s a residential like no other!
We use a range of awe-inspiring residential sites for our camps, all across the UK e.g. Kent, Snowdonia and the Lake District. We tailor the duration of the camp, from one overnight to 5 days, to meet the ambitions and capacity of each school. Groups can learn to cook on an open-fire, go wild swimming, mountaineering and explore wild nature. Experiential learning at its best!
The Making of Traditions
A school’s traditions and daily rituals are what makes its culture. They are an enactment of the school’s values, both the explicit and implicit, and therefore are an important consideration when looking at ways of bringing the student’s journey in school to life.
Residentials, graduations, ceremonies, end of year celebrations – all provide essential opportunities to be witnessed and affirmed by our peers. This develops self-esteem, builds empathy, compassion and strengthens a sense of community. Marking key transition moments in school and throughout adolescence helps young people journey to adult life healthily.
The Impact So Far…
Read the Case Study
UAE Southbank School from South East London embarked on Growing Healthy Schools in August 2020. Read their journey so far, the positive impacts it’s already having on their school and how they plan to develop it further.
Read the Full Report
For a more in-depth understanding of UAE Southbank School’s experience of the Growing Healthy Schools journey so far we invite you to read the full report here. Thank you to Rewilding Education CIC for providing such excellent support carrying out this research.
What schools say...
The staff involved are so full of enthusiasm and excitement about what they experienced and how they can bring this to bear in the school. They all speak about how they have been personally impacted and how they wanted this to affect the way we work with students in the school. It was exactly what I was wanting, it opened their eyes and minds in ways I'd really hoped it would.Head of London Secondary School
An experience that I will never forget, one that has been thought provoking and challenging, so it will challenge us all to be better, to do better.Head of Pastoral
I built bonds with people whom I thought I could never get along with. I saw different sides of people, the vulnerabilities of people, and I’m sure that people saw my vulnerabilities as well.Student Services Team, State Secondary School
This is a highly tailorable process so please get in touch to speak with one of our team to discuss how we can apply the Growing Healthy Schools approach to meet your school’s needs and ambitions. We will design the Initial Co-design process to suit your needs and provide a quote accordingly.
As a social enterprise our profits are re-invested into our social mission.