Mental wellness and resilience programme for years 7 and/or 8
The Best Thing involves one class of students for two consecutive days, with students and facilitators working together using drama games and exercises to explore problems and issues, particularly in communication and connectedness. Modules move from building individual strengths into developing group cohesion, with students learning to think beyond their own points of view. International and national research indicates that a complete programme dedicated to these concepts aimed at younger students before they reach the generally accepted risk-taking years, may enhance their wellbeing overall. THETA trialled the programme in 2006 with and has toured it nationwide in 2007 and 2008.
The programme is facilitated by THETA’s two actor/educators most experienced in working with young people.
The Best Thing is a resource designed to complement schools’ ongoing health programmes, using drama as a tool for learning. It is ideally placed to work within the Health Promoting Schools framework and other mental wellness and resiliency programmes such asThe Lost Bag.
Programme content is drawn from extensive current national and international mental health promotion and educational research.
Staff Learning Outcomes Assessments:
Health promotion and educational research indicates that fostering resilience (including good communication skills and self esteem) in students at a young age increases protective factors, enabling them to make reasonable decisions about their own and others’ wellbeing, and develop empathy and a sense of connectedness and belonging – thus improving their mental health.Joubert and Raeburn, 1998; Vance and Sanchez, 1998; Israelashvili, 2001
To achieve their full potential, young people need opportunities to explore their physical, mental, emotional, social and physical dimensions. Engaging with creative processes provides opportunities to explore a multileveled understanding of identity, initially through an internal dialogue and then in relation to their peers, the wider school community and their family. …Creative art processes merge the learning of process and content, so connecting thinking with doing. Providing a forum for the ‘deeper feelings’ or multi-layered responses that can occur in creative process, is to supply a means to exercise values. The current Health Curriculum emphasizes the need for programmes that provide examples of the areas in which values and attitudes can be explored, some of which are: ‘the strengthening of personal identity and enhancement of a sense of self worth, the examination of discrimination and stereotyping and the understanding of interpersonal skills and development of healthy choice-making’.
Self reflection in creative process enhances the development of resilience, which includes feeling of value or influence. Feeling of value relates to one of three core values of mental health promotion, that of ‘self-determination’, the other two being ‘enabling’ and ‘empowerment’.
Morgan, Patrica (2005) The Potential of Creative Arts as a Medium for Mental Health Promotion in Schools: An Exploration of Meaning-Making, Belonging And Identity Using Creative Processes.
http:www.mentalhealth.org.nz. Retrieved March 2005.
Findings from the use of improvisational theatre in education in the United States indicate that the opportunity to express one’s uniqueness, to discover new abilities, to find your own voice and to tell your story through creativity are effective ways of promoting self-esteem.
The power of improvisation is in the creative learning process: the ‘encouragement of active participation, co-operative group learning using collaborative approaches, and most importantly, the application of democratic processes’(Gibbs, J. 1995) Students gain a variety of individual resiliency skills and a positive sense of purpose and belonging to a group which contributes to their own well-being.
The Best Thing aims to enable students to:
These learning intentions are specifically linked to the Achievement Objectives at Levels 3 and 4 of the Health and Physical Education in New Zealand curriculum document (Ministry of Ed.1999) and The New Zealand Curriculum. (Learning Media, 2006)
In the Arts curriculum, the drama links are all relevant as The Best Thing will enable students to:
Teachers may use the performance as a learning focus to enhance their programmes for their students at any level.
The Theatre in Health Education Trust wishes to express its gratitude to the students and staff of Macandrew Intermediate; Heretaunga Intermediate and Port Chalmers Primary schools for their help and support in developing The Best Thing in 2006.
THETA supports the framework of The Health and Physical Education Curriculum and is committed to working in partnership with New Zealand schools and health providers.
Recognising best practice models as well as the holistic framework of the Curriculum, THETA aims to integrate its programmes into schools’ existing health education strategies. Much of the effectiveness of THeTA’s programmes is lost if they are implemented without this integration.
THETA recommends that students will be served best by the use of The Best Thing as only one resource alongside others in the health education programme they are currently participating in.
Other school health education programmes which are relevant to those from THeTA are sexual health; tobacco; alcohol and other drug issues; nutrition.
THETA is a member of: the New Zealand Health Teachers’ Association; Health Promoting Schools; NZAAHD
To provide an educational experience using theatre-based principles which promotes mental health in young people in Years 7 and 8.
The Best Thing links to the Mental Health Key Area of Learning in the Health and PE Curriculum and The Essential Skills in the areas of physicality; self-management and competition; communication; problem-solving; socialization and co-operation. It also takes cognizance of the criteria that schools can use to assess external providers of suicide-related programmes and activities inYouth Suicide Prevention in Schools: A Practical Guide(Ministries of Youth Affairs, Health and Education, 2003).
The revised New Zealand Curriculum(2006) contains the following five overarching or ‘key’ competencies:managing self; relating to others; participating and contributing; thinking; using language, symbols, and texts.
THETA believes that The Best Thing's objectives address all these key competencies.