Lancaster Independent School for Alternative Learning

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental Health and Wellbeing

The physical and mental wellbeing of our school community has always been a priority and continues to be so. Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing are high priorities nationally and fostering these areas has always been an integral aspect of our pedagogy since it began.

children outside in nature  with leaves blowing and in a stream.  Also sitting in a circle around a centerpiece with candles

Finding Stillness and Flow

Many adults find it hard to a find a prolonged sense of calm and struggle in our modern life to remember what it feels like to be peaceful. Many children today don’t experience this or see it in the adults around them.

Our education provides space everyday to experience stillness. Artistic and creative activities, such as water colour painting, beeswax or clay modelling and woodwork, are all conducted in an unrushed way. Children are encouraged to develop quiet or silent working which can allow the class to drop into a state of flow which also has a regulating effect on their nervous systems.

children doing handcrafts, weaving, clay work etc

Developing a Sense of Security

From wearing their own comfortable and familiar clothes, changing into their slippers in our carpeted classrooms ad calling staff by their first names, we aim to provide a homely atmosphere that enables children to feel relaxed.

Our predictable daily, weekly and yearly rhythms help children to grow familiar and feel secure in what is coming next. Class teachers design their lessons so that they have a healthy balance of “Breathing in and Breathing out”. Breathing in activities might involve listening and learning new skills. Breathing out may be artistic activities or movement. Teachers observe carefully to respond to the needs of the children so that they, in time, learn to find balance in their own lives.

Time in Nature

Ecoliteracy is at the heart of our curriculum. Children learn about the natural world through direct experiences. It is well recognised that time in nature – in all weathers, among trees, with hands in soil has a rejuvenating effect on the nervous system. Most week day afternoons our children will be outdoors in our garden, at our allotment situated a healthy walking distance away, or on a nature walk. Play-times are spent in our school garden: Children can climb trees and enjoy water and mud play. Our children wear wellies and sometimes waterproofs for outdoor play as we go outside in all weathers. This also is scientifically proven to improve emotional resilience.

Belonging and Connection

Each class gathers in a circle every morning. This is a considered way to check in with one another and allows a teacher to sense a child’s mood and wellbeing which informs the first activities of the day.

Sharing thankfulness daily and developing an attitude of gratitude is also proven to improve happiness and develop positivity. Children and teachers have the opportunity to share news that is important to them ad knowledge and relationships with one another is strengthened. Arranged in a circle we aim fr the children to feel mutual respect for each other and feel greater connection. Whole school assemblies are also held in this way. Singing, due to it’s regulation of the breathing system, is known to bring about feelings of wellbeing and connection with others. Singing is part of each classes circle time but also can be heard at regular intervals throughout the day, in the corridor or round the fire circle.

Children standing in a circle

Breathing Deeply and Finding Our Center

Many adults find it hard to find a peaceful center and struggle in our modern life to know what it feels like to be peaceful. Our education aims to instill this peaceful feeling artistically through painting, crafts or practical activities. From the baking activities with the younger classes to watercolour painting, beeswax and clay modelling, woodwork and craft activities are all conducted in an unrushed way. Quiet to silent working, allows children to drop into a state of flow which has a regulating effect on our nervous systems.

A healthy breathing system is developed through our rhythmic work; in daily skipping; recorder playing and singing. As part of our movement programme children have sessions with a trained somatic movement therapist and also a rhythmic movement therapist to enable children to develop a physical awareness.

Developing out Senses to Enhance Appreciation and Being Present

Wellbeing is enhanced through our senses, whenever possible teachers incorporate our senses and are encouraged to experience bodily calm. Waldorf Pedagogy recognises the 12 senses:

LOWER: Movement, Balance, Touch, Life (wellbeing)

MID: Touch, Smell, Vision, Warmth

HIGHER: Speech, Listening, Taste, Thought and Self

Natural materials: wood, stones, beeswax and wool also bring feelings of wellbeing through our touch. Our art and craft materials are carefully chosen for their natural properties which also supports our sustainable ethos. Using actual materials rather than replicas give children real experiences of the natural world and promotes wellbeing. Environments such as ours rich in natural materials, can decrease blood pressure and stress levels so ultimately a healthier immune system.

Children doing activities:  balancing, crochet, drawing

These things are all part of our daily practice available to all, however for all of us our mental health just like our physical health can come under strain. We have trained Mental Health First Aiders who are also part of the local Mental Heath Champions Network.

As part of this we receive regular updates and meet with other practitioners from Health and Social Service and other areas of primary care. We can signpost families to local facilities and groups that support mental health.