Here is just a quick update on the progress that our 6th graders have made with the big task of taking on ‘Mental Health’ as the theme for their Service Learning project for the 2018-2019 school year.
On May 1 we completed our final workshop dedicated to our Service Learning project. We started our morning together with a Narrative 4 workshop, lead by Ms. Laiz. Narrative 4 “harnesses the power of the story exchange to equip and embolden young adults to improve their lives, their communities, and the world.” It is an amazing exercise in empathy building and was a perfect fit to wrap up our yearlong work within the field of mental health. The story exchange is a powerful model based on the belief of Narrative 4’s founding authors. They understand that we will see the world, and ourselves, more empathically through the exchange of personal narratives. Today, this belief is supported by the work of neuroscientists, as well as by the experiences of story exchange participants. Led by Narrative 4 facilitators, story exchanges are customized for classrooms, community organizations, and businesses building on four basic steps.”
The students were very respectful of each other both in the telling, listening, and re-telling their partner’s stories to the group. We heard about harrowing experiences on rollercoasters, the loss of a family dog, a family adventure overseas, an encounter with a bear on a camping trip … just to name a few!
Some of our student feedback following this exercise include these commentaries: “It made me feel nostalgic! / It was kind of cool to not be myself for a moment. / It was weird but cool! / It was neat to hear someone else telling my story. / I liked hearing my story from a different perspective.”
For more information about this powerful community-building tool, please visit: https://narrative4.com/
Following our Narrative 4 exercise, we welcomed a guest speaker from our local professional community. Dr. Cassandra Lipa spoke to our students about her path to achieving her Doctorate in Nurse Practitioning. She spoke to us about the motivation that drove her to dedicate her life to working in our local community, in the role of a mental health provider. We learned why this career path is so meaningful to her, the way in which it has impacted her life, and the lessons she has learned along the way. She spoke with us about the importance of group therapy sessions, especially in a school community setting. She is an advocate for people coming together to talk about their feelings and emotions. She asked our students many questions, and our group explained to her about what we have been doing since September within our Service Learning project, including but not limited to ; making positive affirmation posters and fortune cookies to share with our school community, dedicating a space on our campus to ‘forest bathing’ and preparing a guided meditation to share with our peers. Dr. Lipa praised them for being “ahead of the ball” in their awareness of and concentration on the importance of taking care of our mental health, being ‘OK’ with our feelings, and being mindful. We spoke about what being ‘mindful’ means; being present, being interested in what we are doing at the moment. We discussed the notion of how often we find ourselves on ‘auto-pilot’ – going through the motions of our day without really paying attention to the details of what we are doing. Our time with Dr. Lipa included great conversation and discussion, as well as a mini-workshop on breathing, and learning why it is important to practice deep breathing, for our mental as well as physical health.
The main goal of this visit, combined with our year-long work is to remind our students how important and valuable these tools that they are learning can and will be in their lives to come, when stress levels may rise or fall on the adventure of life! Our students can discuss the importance of maintaining and protecting our mental health and know why it is just as important to keep ourselves mentally fit, as it is to keep ourselves physically fit!
It was enriching to have a local member of the professional mental health community, who is at the cusp of her career, speak to us about what she has done, is doing, and will do in her field.
I speak for Ms. Laiz and myself when I say how proud we are of our 6th graders, in the dedication and maturity they have brought to this very loaded and large theme of mental health. Please check out our BCD photo page for pictures from our last Community Day.
Next step -> Service Learning Sharecase on Thursday, May 30th!