Posted on August 4, 2020 / Middle School
Despite the challenges presented to all of us, the last two weeks have been really positive within the Middle School. Staff are constantly providing feedback on their classes and the involvement of their students, and overwhelmingly the feedback is excellent. Students are continuing to develop their own organisational skills, communicate effectively using their email, the portal, and are submitting work in a timely fashion. Of course, this is not always the case for all students, as it’s often not the case for all adults in this environment and it is important that we all continue to monitor and assist in the well-being of all students.
As part of balancing the current workloads on our students and understanding the importance of finding time to focus on their well-being, we held our third GEM Day (Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness) on Wednesday 29 July. The day was co-ordinated by our relevant pastoral teams and saw our students participating in a variety of activities such as yoga, mindfulness, cooking, exercise, and community service (where possible). The response from the students was amazing with many of them taking the opportunity to step away from their screens and find the time to walk their neighbourhood on a scavenger hunt, or cook a meal for themselves or their parents.
Year 7 Boys GEM Day
On GEM Day the Year 7 Boys participated in a ‘Healthy Cooking Challenge’. This task aligned with lessons in ‘The Resilience Project’ which focus on the relationship between healthy eating and its effects on the body and mind.
The boys were asked to prepare a meal for their family, and film the entire process from the preparation of ingredients to the final product. Dishes ranged from pasta to pizza, from chilli dishes to chicken burgers. The results were fantastic, and a credit to the boys’ cooking skills and willingness to ‘have a go’. Thanks must go out to the parents who assisted with filming and also ensured no kitchen accidents occurred.
The boys were also asked to undertake a physical activity on the day such as walking the dog, going for a run or bike ride or participating in a fitness workout.
The boys are to be commended for the enthusiastic manner in which they approached these tasks. It certainly helps to have a group of boys so willing to take on challenges put before them.
Year 7 Girls GEM Day
GEM Days are a wonderful opportunity for the girls to ‘take a breath’, focus on themselves and do something mindful to restore well-being. With this in mind, the day is designed in order for the girls to be able to select their own activities from a broad range of offerings. Three general categories were given, from which the girls selected two choices based on what they would most enjoy. While doing their activities, they were asked to either take photos (slow-mo or time-lapse) or video and post these on the Portal for our viewing.
The variety of undertakings the girls chose is amazing. The first option was something physical. Activities the girls participated in ranged from horse-riding to riding a swing, walking the dog to dog sledding (!) and bike riding to yoga. Another option was cooking and here we saw the girls make cookies, pizza, apple tatin, home-made pasta, cloud bread, chocolate and strawberry cupcakes, meringues, guacamole, scones, cobblers, cakes and brownies. Thank you to the parents for supplying the ingredients!
The third option was a craft, and again the variety of products made was incredible. There were gratitude boards, jar crafts, wood painting, crystals, masks, puzzle clocks, stickers, paintings, Adobe Draw creations and a maths-rap! All reports from the girls were very positive, indicating they thoroughly enjoyed the day, with the only request being “Can we please have a GEM Day every week?”
Year 8 GEM Day
GEM Day 3 saw the Year 8 students down IT tools and head into a day that was as screen free as it could be in this day and age. The goals of the day aligned closely to the aims of the Resilience Project, by fostering a greater sense of connection to the world through the triple lenses of Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness.
The gratitude boards that the students created were imaginative and expressive of each student, and staff were really impressed by the work that was put into them. We loved seeing the final products.
Many of the sessions of the Resilience Project focus on “healthy body – healthy mind”. The Year 8s were encouraged to take part in this by cooking and presenting healthy meals for their families. Mindfulness isn’t always simply meditation or colouring. It is more about being ‘in the moment’ and focussing all of you onto a task. Cooking is a way to hone one’s mind into a rhythm of focus and is great method of releasing the onslaught of thought we often experience – you can read more here https://www.headspace.com/mindfulness/mindful-cooking
The Year 8s must be congratulated on the enthusiastic way they engaged with the ideas and challenges of the day and had a go at things they may never have done before. A huge shout out also to the parents who supported everyone through sourcing ingredients, filming, supervising or just being there.
Year 9 GEM Day
The recent GEM day for Year 9 was intentionally designed to get students OFF the screen and engaged in some simple activities connected to the theme “The Five Ways to Wellbeing”. The Five Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, Give) are simple and proven actions that can help individuals find balance, build resilience and boost mental health. Students had to select one task to complete from each Area of Wellbeing. There were 2 compulsory activities; one was to Connect with a classmate via a phone call, and the other was to Be Active and participate in a Scavenger Hunt.
Other activity suggestions included:
- Connect: Plan an adventure to do in the future with friends when we can go out again, or have lunch with a family member
- Be active: Walk, cycle, yoga, dance, ride a horse, martial arts, sport, run, clean the house
- Take notice: Mindful colouring but design yourself (free expression), nature craft, design a jar of awesome, listen to a favourite podcast or read a book.
- Keep Learning: Compose and create a piece of music out of non- traditional instruments, up-cycle an item of clothing/equipment, build it in the home or backyard
- Give: a random act of kindness that contributes to the household, hand write a letter to someone, or make them a gift
Students had to meet back online at 3:30pm to share the day’s experiences with their mentor teacher. The feedback received from our mentors indicated that most of our Year 9 students enjoyed the opportunity to turn their devices off and challenge themselves with activities they wouldn’t normally have the time/inclination to engage in. The scavenger hunt, sustainable challenge of up-cycling, and the challenges that encouraged greater interaction with family members were very popular. Students responded positively to having the freedom to choose from a selection of activities, providing some independence and autonomy.
Here are a few pictures form the day: