Five ways to improve student wellbeing

Issue: Volume 97, Number 18

Posted: 23 October 2018
Reference #: 1H9mQe

The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging teachers to plan activities throughout the year to improve students’ wellbeing.

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) this year is, Let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing / Mā te taiao, kia whakapakari tōu oranga. Activities(external link) can be built into a lesson plan, all year round and are available during term 4.

Connect/Me whakawhanaunga with each other, strengthen positive relationships

Strengthening positive relationships and broadening students’ social networks at school, helps make them feel valued. Learning about their genealogy improves their sense of belonging. 

Discover your pepeha

A pepeha is the traditional way Māori introduce themselves to let others know who they are and where they are from. As a class, you could research the name of the school’s iwi/tribe, hapū/sub-tribe, maunga/mountain, awa/river and moana/sea.

Students can also develop their own pepeha. There is no right or wrong way to do this, so encourage your students to share the places and people that are meaningful to them in a creative way, such as a drawing or video.

Connect others to nature

Make cards, posters or art from natural materials such as sand, pressed flowers or leaves. The final product could be given to people in the local community who might not have much contact with nature, such as a local rest home. Bring nature to them!

Take notice/Me aro tonu of their environment and themselves

Taking notice involves paying attention to the world around us and our thoughts and feelings. These activities will help students to be more present and see things that perhaps they normally wouldn’t.

Colouring competition

Download the MHAW colouring-in sheet(external link). If you have missed the cut off (26 October) for entries, you can still have your own class colouring competition. Head outdoors and encourage students to draw what they see, smell and hear.

What’s that smell?

Take the class outside to take notice of their senses.

For example:

  • Smell: pine needles, grass, spring flowers.
  • Touch: pine cones, sand, stones.
  • Taste: orange, apple or taro.
  • Sight: cloud shapes, colours of nature.
  •  Sounds: birds, wind in the trees.

Give/Tukau back to nature

Giving can increase students’ happiness, life satisfaction and general sense of wellbeing. Nature gives us physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, so it’s important we all give back to it when we can.

Gardening and planting is a great way to get students connecting with Papatūānuku/Mother Earth and give back to their environment and community.

  • Plant seedlings and watch them grow. Who can grow the tallest sunflower?
  • Volunteer to help at a local community planting day or beach clean-up.
  • Design and build a bird feeder.

Be active/Me kori tonu in nature

Being physically active can improve student’s physical health, mood and wellbeing. It can also decrease stress, depression and anxiety.

Let’s fly

The Māori kite is known as manu tukutuku(external link) or manu aute. ‘Manu’ means both kite and bird, and ‘tukutuku’ refers to the winding out of the line as the kite ascends. Working in small groups, students can create their own manu tukutuku using materials they have found outside, including raupō/bullrush, harakeke/flax and toetoe/tussock. 

Keep learning/Me ako tonu and challenge yourself with new experiences

Encourage your students to keep learning, be curious and seek out new experiences, all of which positively stimulates their brains.

Class challenge

Have a brainstorming session as a class and set a nature challenge. This could be learning about the Māori tradition of weaving and making flax baskets. You could create a classroom korowai/cloak or, set a class or inter-school ‘Five Ways in Five Days’ challenge.

For more information:

Hutt collective gets proactive

Despite Mental Health Awareness Week falling in the October school holidays, Ngā Māngai Rangatahi o Te Awakairangi, a collective of head students based in Lower Hutt, made sure that they were still involved by holding an inter-school Mental Health Awareness Week on 20-24 August.

Their Five Ways to Wellbeing school activities across the week included:

  • yoga, open sports day and jump jam
  • an amazing race and placing fact stickers about mental health around the school
  • balloon treasure hunt and ‘take notice’ activities
  • random acts of kindness, a kindness wall and thank-you note stations
  • a March for Mental Health and mufti day. The march was an 8.7km, student-led hīkoi. Starting at Taita Rock, the walk continued down the Hutt River Trail and ended at Hutt Valley High School. It was open to all local schools and the wider community. 

Five ways to wellbeing that can be included in a classroom plan

  1. Connect/Me whakawhanaunga with each other, strengthen positive relationships
  2. Take notice/Me aro tonu of your environment and yourself
  3. Give/Tukau back to nature
  4. Be active/Me kori tonu in nature
  5. Keep learning/Me ako tonu about yourself and where you live

For more activity ideas, go to the Mental Health Awareness Week website(external link).

Download free resources about the Five Ways to Wellbeing.(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:21 am, 23 October 2018

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