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Mitford students dive into mental health projects

A group of middle school students are rebooting what it means to talk about and address mental wellness.
Mitford Students
Students from Mitford School participated in a recent Make Good project which focused on mental health among students and seniors. They will be presenting the project at the RVS board meeting in January.

A group of middle school students are rebooting what it means to talk about and address mental wellness. The concept of mental health is newer in grade schools but it has taken root at Mitford in recent years, most notably with its “Reboot Room,” where students can go to unwind, have lunch or breakfast or have a place to decompress. The space is about a third of the size of a regular classroom. A kettle sits on a mini-fridge, a microwave and counter full of snacks, including instant noodle cups, are nearby. Couches and a sitting area takes up half of the comfortably cluttered room and a shelf, neatly packed with fidget tools and craft supplies, divides it from a work table. Handmade posters with either encouraging words or activity instructions hang on the walls, and a fresh pack of sticky notes lies underneath a sign encouraging students to write positive notes for their peers to be hung on the bulletin board. There’s light music filtering the otherwise quiet space. It’s where 16 students at Mitford School ranging from Grades 7 to 8 – led by teacher Ginger McManus – are showcasing their work after participating in the most recent Make Good project – a local start up by Joshua Clarke that focuses on small initiatives to make the community a better place. The theme was mental well-being among students and seniors. Clarke came into the school to teach the students about mental health and guide them in their projects. It started with a few ideas – a school newspaper, a podcast, an interactive mural with encouraging notes – and now it’s a full-fledged movement and will be featured at the next Rocky View Schools trustee board meeting in January. Each of the students worked on a project either with partners or on their own. The goal was to deliver information on mental wellness or to provide a method to overcome anxiety, depression or stress. Lina Maru, with some help from her peers, spearheaded a newspaper project for students. Each week she helped write sections that included interviews of other peers or teachers and a section to highlight tips for overcoming mental wellness obstacles. “The first thing we wrote about were ‘wellthies,’” she said, which was a series of selfies taken by students doing something that makes them happy. Another student, Jamie Mark, contributed to a seniors game event which they called “Excite Night.” The idea was to brighten up the homes of seniors at the Bethany Care Centre with art for their walls and lead game boards and bingo. “We noticed that in the Bethany Care Center, that it was not too colorful, and it was kind of like, boring, I would say,” Mark said. Other ideas included a wooden, mobile-like structure dubbed the Mindfulness Station. It’s a wooden frame holding several wooden spools with rotating blocks throughout. On one side of the block is an image of nature and its opposite face has encouraging phrases. It also has a speaker that lightly plays sounds of nature. Some students created a podcast, complete with a logo, a few segments, interviews with teachers on their mental health journeys and music. McManus said she selected students based on personality types. “We kind of looked at kids with empathy, with design skills, kids that work well in project-based environments,” McManus said. The 15-week long project – two hours each week – was wrapped up last week at a showcase event.