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Covid-19 and child trauma: What role should schools be playing?

Under the title ‘Every Mind Matters‘ the NHS has issued advice to parents on looking after a child or young person’s mental health.

Imagine the scenarios: an elderly relative has Covid, or has died from Covid; grandparents are socially isolating and not available to look after the children; there is no break in the monotony; one or both parents have lost their jobs; the child is witness to an increase in disharmony in the home; the child is sent home from school to social isolate due to a Covid outbreak in school and can’t be looked after; parents are visiting food banks and falling into debt; rent is in arrears and cold winter is around the corner.

Even before Covid, a quarter of children were showing signs of mental ill-health [according to a Public Health England report] and three quarters of adults separately reported they found it hard to cope at some point in the year.

What does the school do?

The brutal answer is: schools are not set up to provide the emotional learning pupils need to manage the stress, anxiety and even mental ill-health they will encounter in their lives.

The long term objective of life-based learning is to make emotional development a theme all to itself, one of only nine life-based themes — such is its importance.

Through life-based learning, children learn emotional resilience by developing self-awareness, emotional self-regulation and feelings of self-worth as a central learning objective.

We are talking serious focus on what is a serious problem for individuals and society.

In the meantime, I hope schools find whatever resources they need, and teachers give whatever time they can, to support the children in their charge through these unprecedented times.

Life-based learning on the environment ahead of the times?

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

Last night David Attenborough, in the BBC documentary ‘Extinction: The Facts‘ tolled the bell on worldwide loss of habitat and biodiversity, threats to species and extinction of not just wild animals, but putting human existence itself at risk. Pulling no punches, Attenborough banged that bell to hell.

Unfortunately, while the message is not new, human impact on the environment is ever on the increase.

Only last week the Living Planet Report showed that, on average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68 per cent between 1970 and 2016.

The Independent Tackling the extinction crisis is everyone’s responsibility – and time is running short

One of the nine themes of Life-Based Learning [along with Plant Life and Animal Life] is ‘The Physical World‘. Children in Primary School learn scientific and geographical concepts, knowledge, techniques and skills through their exploration of the damage to the world’s physical resources by human activity and the impact this is having on life and living.

Is it too much to hope that the National Curriculum subjects can be rearranged to ensure our young children are prepared to meet the environmental challenges they will face as adults?

Collapse in wildlife populations caused by human activity

Image by Ylvers from Pixabay

According to the newly published Living Planet Report 2020, wildlife populations are in freefall around the world, and the principal cause is human activity.

It says that, on average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles fell by 68% between 1970 and 2016.

According to the Guardian, the report found that “from the rainforests of central Africa to the Pacific Ocean, nature was being exploited and destroyed by humans on a scale never previously recorded.”

The devastation of wildlife is principally caused by:

  • human overconsumption
  • population growth
  • intensive agriculture

Sir David Attenborough is quoted as saying that this could be the moment we [humans] learn to become stewards of the planet. “Above all,” he says, “it will require a change in perspective.”

Animal life is one of the nine themes that are at the heart of the life-based learning curriculum for children aged 5 to 11.

Life-based learning focuses on the value of animals to humanity and aims to foster in children an interest in the need to preserve animal diversity, protect animal habitats and manage the use of animals in sustainable ways to the mutual benefit of humans and the planet.

Above all, it ensures that children are sensitised to the issues facing animals caused by human use of animals and their environments.

Greenland and Antarctica are melting at rates matching ‘worse-case scenario’ predictions

Image by InstaWalli Official from Pixabay

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, has confirmed the polar ice caps are losing mass at rates threatening dire sea-level rise.

As reported in the Express:

  • Trillions of tons of ice are melting
  • The melt has caused a sea level rise estimated at 17.8 mm
  • The melt contributes to coastal flooding, shifting ocean currents and extreme weather events
  • A further 6.7 inches (17 cm) rise is predicted by the end of the century to impact on millions of people.

Life-based learning gives children the foundation concepts, knowledge, attitudes and values to contribute positively in their adult lives to finding life-sustainable solutions. Life-based learning prioritises learning about and looking after the physical world.

Target to cut childhood obesity in half will be missed

The National Audit Office (Britain’s spending watchdog) has issued a report warning that the government’s target of halving childhood obesity by 2030 is likely to be missed.

As reported in the Guardian newspaper, the report:

  • says that progress has been slow
  • criticises ministers for not delivering on pledges made in recent years
  • warns that more urgency, commitment and cohesion is required

The National Audit Office website states:

In 2018/19, nearly one tenth of 4 to 5 year olds and more than one fifth of 10 to 11 year olds were classified obese. We estimate that roughly 1.4 million children aged from 2 to 15 years old were classified obese in 2018. Not only is obesity increasing for 10 to 11 year olds, it is increasing even faster for children in deprived areas.

National Audit Office childhood obesity report conclusions [as summarised on their website]

We owe it to our children to give them the knowledge and skills they need to grow up leading healthy lives. Life-based learning priorities bodily health. It builds in to the timetable regular physical activity. Children spend time learning about their bodies and how to look after them.

Diversity as a fundamental aim

An interesting letter in today’s Guardian from Simon Gibbs, Professor of Inclusive Educational Psychology and Philosophy at Newcastle University.

His letter was one of three published in response to an article by Melissa Benn, arguing for the ditching of GCSEs as part of a transformation of schools.

… to focus only on exams misses the real point. There is much more at stake.

The heart of what schools do, what teachers do, should not be simply determined by children and young people’s attainment against narrowly defined criteria of knowledge, but about what they could do as citizens of the future. That is more likely to depend on their understanding and respect for each other, and their ability to collaborate rather than compete.

Today’s attention on exam results reiterates a debate founded on competition and individual ranking; with winners and losers, it is an exclusionary debate. What is needed more than ever is a curriculum that enables young people to learn about difference, diversity and civilised society. The main transformation of education should therefore have an aim of promoting inclusion.

Simon Gibbs, Professor of Inclusive Educational Psychology and Philosophy at Newcastle University

I omitted a couple of sentences at the start of the letter. The full text can be read here.

Society is one of the three life areas around which the Merged Action Curriculum is organised. Its focus is on building healthy relationships and stable, inclusive communities.

Rain and wind bring 1,000 tons of microplastics to U.S. protected lands every year

America’s national parks and wilderness are being filled with plastic we can barely even see.

[Photo: Bailey Zindel/Unsplash] Edited by Fast Company

Article by BY KRISTIN TOUSSAINT

When I was young there was a saying, ‘What happens in America, happens in Britain ten years later’. The article written by Kristin Toussaint for Fast Company – see link above – reveals 1000 tons of microplastics inundate America’s protected lands – 6% of America – every year, brought in by the wind or evaporated into clouds and deposited by rainstorms. 

“The biggest category of these microplastics was fibers related to clothing. Samples included polyester, nylon, polypropylene, and PTFE, which is used in technical wear such as waterproof jackets.”

And, as far as Britain being behind America, there is every reason to suppose the same microplastics are raining down now in Britain as they are in America – no time lag there then.

Who would have thought walking in the Highlands of Scotland with your waterproof on could be polluting the environment?

Obesity Link to Covid-19

Image by Phichit Wongsunthi from Pixabay

It’s in the news again: obesity. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, himself the living proof topping out at 16 stone, is calling for action.

The Guardian newspaper highlights the numbers of people overweight: 40% of all men in England, but more women are obese than men, and an increase of 10% in both men and women since 1993.

The Guardian profiling of Boris Johnson’s own overweight admission and declaration to take measures to combat obesity follows on from the report published this month by Public Health England.

According to the report Excess Weight and Covid-19: Insights from new evidence, “Almost two-thirds of adults in England are living with excess weight for their height (BMI ≥25kg/m2), with similar figures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

The report provides “evidence on the links between weight status and Covid-19 outcomes”, but also places the link firmly in the context of how destructive overweight is on health. “Living with excess weight is a risk factor for a range of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, many cancers, liver and respiratory disease. Obesity is also associated with reduced life expectancy, and lower quality of life.”

Whilst there are overweight people due to medical conditions, and anorexics may take the government’s campaign to heart by eating even less, the overweight epidemic is very much a life-style condition across all sectors of society.

From the Life-Based Learning Forum perspective, the campaign to combat obesity needs to start with schools — not just as an add-on to the curriculum, but central to it. For example, knowing about and looking after the body is one of nine life themes through which everything is taught. Only by direct focus and attention in the education of the young can there be any hope of slimming down the population.


Hopes and Dreams

The Houses of Parliament: The UK Seat of Power

The statutory nature of the National Curriculum in England requires political will for change. It is politicians who hold our hopes and dreams in their hands.

Breaking from the traditional way of educating children is hard. It is going to take a politician of great wisdom, foresight and leadership to break the mould.

The steps to change:

  • Recognise the severity of modern-day challenges
  • Identify a life-based approach to learning as the solution
  • Successive generations of young children grow up armed with the where-with-all to overcome the challenges.

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The Benefits of Plants

Image by Phichit Wongsunthi from Pixabay

More evidence emerges of the health benefits of the Great Outdoors and of our growing love affair with plants.

According to this report, a Royal Horticultural Society poll in Britain found that 71% of respondents feel that gardens and outdoor spaces have helped them with their mental health during the coronavirus emergency.

Meanwhile, this report in The Guardian talks of “a crop-growing revolution that enthusiasts say could transform how we think about nature, food security and our communities.”

Life-based learning promotes an appreciation of the importance of plants. The Merged Action Curriculum, an example of a life-based curriculum, has Plant Life as one of its nine curriculum themes.


Read more

Support Us
Posts

Check out more of our posts on topics relating to life-based learning

An Urgent Priority
Benefits

Read more about the benefits of a life-based approach to learning

Adding Value
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Find out about what a life-based curriculum might look like