The Kindness Project – Hearts and Minds Wellbeing Framework in Action

Article by Michelle McKersey, Jessica Robertson, Joe Hodges
Moreton Bay College / 23 October 2019

Two wellbeing initiatives that align with Hearts and Minds – Moreton Bay College’s wellbeing framework – are The Kindness Project and FIT A.M. Both initiatives are examples of Hearts and Minds in action and provide students with opportunities to practice the 5 actions of the framework: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.

The Kindness Project: Hearts and Minds in Action

Beginning in 2017 with a humble attendance of just six dedicated Year 10 students, the Moreton Bay College Kindness Project has grown into a successful team of 54 students committed to providing opportunities for students in Years 7 to 12 to engage with the five actions of our Hearts and Minds framework: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. Hearts and Minds is based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing from the New Economics Foundation in the UK.

The Kindness Project was initially designed as an initiative to encourage students transitioning from primary school to remain active and connected with their peers as they moved to the more sedentary spaces of the secondary school. Aimed at improving student wellbeing, the Project offered active lunchtime activities each Friday to create opportunities for fostering social connection, improving relationships and developing a sense of belonging across year groups. Notably, it offered a safe space for students to reach out and make new friends from outside their tribe.

The selection of Year 10 students to form the Kindness Project Team was purposeful; as middle years students they are well-placed to reach across the divide of the Junior and Senior years of schooling. They are often not afforded the opportunities for leadership that become available in the Senior years and can be left feeling undervalued. The project therefore begins each year with a presentation to the cohort seeking students who are keen advocates for wellbeing and the Hearts and Minds framework. The students who volunteer then meet weekly to plan and prepare activities and run sessions each Friday lunchtime.

Sub-committees of approximately 10 students focus on each of the 5 actions of the Hearts and Minds framework, designing activities to encourage students to Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. Each week in the open green space of the MBC Quadrangle, students gather in mixed age groups to try something new together. Teachers have also taken up the offer, joining students to eat lunch and converse, or get in some Jazzercise or mindful colouring before class. Recent adventures have included:

Connect – teamwork games, picnic lunches, conversation ballpit, giant Jenga and dominoes

Be Active – student-led Yoga, Zumba, Jazzercise, skipping and hoola hoops

Take Notice – mindful colouring, Easter basket craft, Smiling Mind meditations

Keep Learning – learning cat’s cradle and string games, origami lessons, trivia games, group art projects

Give – making bookmarks for others, Kindness-grams, card making

During the past two years, work for the Kindness Project has expanded to include the Year 6 students in Primary, who are invited to attend specific lunch time activities to normalise the new spaces and faces of Secondary. Often attended by Senior staff, these events also offer students the chance to familiarise themselves with the leadership of the College and begin forming relationships. There is nothing like mutual frustration over glitter and glue alongside your Head of Secondary, or attempts at Zumba or elastics with your Head of College or Head of Students to build a sense of belonging and comfort with the Secondary school. Students have participated in making slime, drama games, bake sales and craft activities, alongside the older students from Years 7 to 12, who take great pride in getting to know our younger attendees.

The Project has been a fulfilling exercise in developing student leaders who champion wellbeing and positive mental health, while building relationships across year levels. It is hoped our reach continues to grow, led by our enthusiastic and dedicated Year 10 volunteers.

Hearts and Minds: Fitness for Life

 The benefits of physical activity for young people are well known. We know that movement and exercise is associated with improved mental health, physical health and academic performance within this group. What is concerning; however, is that a substantial number of young people – especially young girls – fail to meet national physical activity guidelines. In the transition from childhood to adolescence, physical activity is increasingly replaced with sedentary activities.

Our aim, therefore, must be to instil a sense of confidence in young women to engage in physical activity. Ultimately, we want to establish self-efficacy when it comes to exercise so that the young women in our care are capable and confident in managing their own physical wellbeing when they leave school.

At Moreton Bay College, our wellbeing framework has been designed to provide our students with a range of skills they can employ to manage their wellbeing both at school and in their lives beyond. The Hearts and Minds framework, which utilises the Five Ways to Wellbeing as its guide, emphasises five key actions known to improve wellbeing when incorporated into every day life. These five actions – Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give – guide and inform all facets of our pastoral care programs.

To assist our Year 10 – 12 student to Be Active, we have implemented a new program called FIT A.M. Run by teaching staff at the College, this fun, non-competitive fitness program has been designed to motivate and encourage students of all fitness levels to exercise in a safe and supportive environment. The program has been developed in consultation with experts in the fields of health and wellbeing, with exercise physiologists and physiotherapists engaged to ensure the program is suitable for girls of all fitness levels.

The response to FIT A.M. from our students has been incredibly positive. A large group of students regularly attend sessions, with numbers remaining consistent each week. Students have enjoyed the variety of exercises and types of training on offer and have continued to rise to new challenges. Attendees have commented that “it energises me at the start of a day”, “gives me the opportunity to meet new people”, and “leaves me with a sense of pride from the accumulation of small personal achievements gained within each session”.

We are hopeful that the program will continue to grow and, based on the level of interest, intend to expand sessions to a second morning each week. Through FIT A.M., MBC will continue to focus on the hearts and minds of its students. We feel that offering a program such as this will help develop some crucial habits in our students as they enter life after school so that they are confident in managing their own wellbeing.

Michelle McKersey, Deputy Head of Secondary, Students, Jessica Robertson, Head of Wesley House and Joe Hodges, Head of Drewe House.