The pandemic has created a threshold in education, a long awaited opportunity to shed old skin and enter a new paradigm. How to seize the moment? How to heal the relational poverty endured this past year? By foregrounding 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 foregrounds 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, empathetic 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 student 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. Below are the main ‘building blocks’ that underpin the GHS approach. The process is built to be adapted and evolved over time and to compliment the developmental work already taking place.
A 5-day community camp 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. Whilst also rekindling our connection to nature, this experience provides new perspectives and inspiration that enhance everyday life in school. It’s a residential like no other!
Participants explore how to enact transformative change through taking action, doing research with the wider school community, supported by critical reflection around the guiding question “what are we doing to support youth into adulthood?” The deeper understanding helps identify actions to take to enact a shared vision.
The journey can involve the whole school community, or can start with a targeted group of staff, students, or staff & students together. Regardless of the starting point, the process ‘evolves’ so others can participate over time. Where to start will depend on the make up of your school, the initiatives you already have ongoing and your aspirations for participatory decision making & student voice.
‘Community of Practice’
Schools are invited to establish a Community of Practice on the theme of ‘School Culture’. This gives students and staff real ownership and a framework to steward the everyday life of school. This democratic process develops agency, participation and engagement across the school, whilst creating important feedback loops that inform collective decision making.
Co-Designing the Future
The first phase of GHS can culminate in our team facilitating a co-design process that helps those involved to take the journey into their own hands. Together, with our support, they decide how to continue growing a healthy school environment by identifying a programme of activities that enhances the support students receive on their journey to adulthood and the support staff need to thrive.
Participants put on their ‘systems thinking’ hats, and weave the developmental thread between individual experiences and touch points encountered at school. This highlights what’s already being done that really works, where the gaps are and what makes most sense to start doing. This processes embraces each individual’s journey through education as an extended rite of passage into a healthy adult life, and into the safe container of a community of belonging.
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
Rites of Passage Framework
Rites of passage help unlock our collective and individual potential. The three phase approach invites us to enquire into the change wish to see (in ourselves and in the world), to take some action towards enacting that change, and integrate it into our everyday lives. Through rites of passage, communities co-create and model regenerative, holistic ways to initiate young people into healthy adulthood, thereby unlocking their potential to celebrate their unique identity and place in the world.
Symbiosis & Reciprocity
It’s not contested that life on our planet is the result of symbiosis. The natural world is not something outside of us, we are intimately related with it. We celebrate how everything is ultimately the result of symbiotic interaction and see beauty of reciprocity in our work.
As our friends at Larger Us say “change ourselves to change the world, change the world to change ourselves”. And in the same breath we can say that it takes a village to raise a child, but also a child to raise a village.
The Way of Council
Council is a form of group communication that harnesses the power of personal sharing, attentive listening and open dialogue. It develops oracy skills, promotes authenticity, builds trust, empathy, compassion and creates authentic connection. Those involved feel seen, heard and affirmed and, when embedded into school life, council creates a strong container for 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.
We believe change starts within each of us and grows outwards. Our starting point is always an enquiry into our inner landscape. How am I relating to myself, to others and to the world around me?
As our awareness broadens, as we discover the world around us, as connection to others and the natural world grows, so does our definition of ‘self’. Our sphere of consideration widens and we embrace an ever expanding sense of self. This develops consideration for all life on Earth and nurtures compassionate leadership.
Solitude in Nature
During the enquiry residential we invite participants to take part in a reflective ‘nature solo’ – an opportunity to spend an extended period of time alone, without any modern day distractions, from several hours to a full day and night. This creates a powerful space from which to reflect on the past, appreciate the present and dream into the future. It creates a threshold moment that is a potent way to shed old skin and embrace new ways of being. Afterwards participants share their stories, their dreams for the future and in this way the whole community benefits.
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.
As this is an adaptable programme, we will build a programme of activities with you and provide a quote accordingly.
Please get in touch to speak with one of our team and find out more about how we can tailor this work to meet your school’s needs and ambitions.
As a social enterprise all of our profits are re-invested into our social mission.