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Views & Opinion


Let me connect with the world Comment by ALICIA BLANCO-BAYO, Early Years lecturer and consultant


In a world where innovation seems to be at the centre of everything we do, the value of every-day experiences can often be forgotten. Many Early Years settings I have come across recently are trying to find ways to use real life experiences to teach children how to really connect with each other and the world around them. What this really means is that we are finally using real moments to learn about the little things that matter. Over the years, research has taken me on a


holistic journey where simplicity seems to be taking the lead. What I am slowly discovering is that when the simple things in life are valued, children learn so much more. La Mariquita is one of those places where magic is in the air. This small nursery in Malaga


allows children to explore traditions through hands-on activities. These sensory experiences help children understand that often those things we take for granted carry a special meaning. How else can we teach the younger generations to appreciate the hands-on work that goes into some of the things we enjoy in life? The role-play opportunity I explored in this small


setting in the South of Spain recreated “La vendimia” (the harvest of the grapes). I found it fascinating how the interactions between children and practitioners supported the development of so many skills. The experiences provoked interactions and children showed curiosity towards things they might not have experienced otherwise. Children used a paint brush to brush the bottom of their feet and discussed how this felt. The varied vocabulary that came from talking about that feeling helped children during the role- play activity. The harvest of the grapes as a role- play activity developed into more than just learning about the process of picking the grapes. It involved learning about the tradition of stomping the grapes to make wine.


Developing thinking skills It is so true that anything that makes us feel can become a truly meaningful experience. A


spontaneous discussion about the sensation of having your feet brushed developed into a deep thinking process. Some children laughed, some children felt a shiver as they brushed their own feet and with the help of the practitioner, they began to associate words to these sensations. Each response was a sign of neurological


connections. When children use language and/or facial expressions to tell us how they feel, they are thinking and their brains are developing. The harvesting of the grapes, a tradition that


would have meant nothing to these children unless it had been recreated in their nursery, stimulated a powerful thinking process. Perhaps having access to the latest gadgets and


being exposed to extravagant extra-curricular activities is not the answer. Perhaps it is time we focus on valuing what is around us. By referring to the time when life was simple and the only way to make wine was by stomping grapes, we are teaching children to connect with what truly matters. What it feels like to stomp grapes to make your own grape juice is without any doubt a truly unforgettable experience.


uIf you would like to discuss Early Years with Alicia, she can be contacted via her website www.aliciablancobayoconsultant.com


The importance of building emotional resilience in students


Comment by VICTORIA EVANS, Founder of The Student Health Guide


Building emotional resilience in your student population is critical to both their future success and the success of your institution. Over the last few years, there has been great focus on the emotional resilience of students. The rise in social media and perfectionism, combined with political and economic uncertainty, have been cited as reasons that some young people are finding it hard to cope, and struggle with the undulation of life. The media fascination with this global phenomenon has been largely welcomed by key stakeholders and young people themselves, presenting society with a clear opportunity to develop these emotional needs. A recent study in Australia showed that young people are more resilient


at age 10 than they are aged 15. This suggests that something happens between the ages of 10 and 15 – perhaps it’s no coincidence that students can have their own Facebook account at aged 13. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the interaction between a school and its students both between these ages, and before, offers a fundamental opportunity to improve and establish emotional resilience it its student body. Studies have shown that children with higher levels of resilience


generally benefit from better outcomes later in life. They are more likely to develop stronger relationships and benefit from increased opportunities for happiness and success during their lives. It follows that resilient school children are likely to have a happier school life – they are more likely to build strong relationships with teachers and peers and have better opportunities for academic success. For an institution, this can only be a


20 www.education-today.co.uk


good outcome. A happier, healthier student body which engages in a positive way will lead to higher levels of student attainment and all of the successes that come with that. Emotional resilience is, however, an intangible that cannot be taught in


the same way as history or maths - nor can it be realistically assessed. It needs to be encouraged and nurtured over time and weaved into the school ecosystem through a whole school approach. With a little effort, it is possible to improve the emotional resilience of a student body, even in those who may be naturally more sensitive to stressful situations. A great part of building emotional resilience is an awareness of the


concept and developing an understanding of why we feel certain things. Managing expectations about life is key - particularly in a glossy, social media dominant world. Understanding why we have certain feelings, and encouraging an empathy towards the feelings of others, are core life skills that can avoid immobilisation in later life. Whilst these concepts seem woolly and ‘unteachable’, there are ways in which to weave this into school life. Leadership roles, competitive sport, harnessing skills and interests, identifying positive role models, encouraging strong friendships and team work offer some opportunities. If the main objective of a school is to educate students and equip them with the tools for the future, it follows that building emotional resilience in its student population is vital.


uwww.studenthealth.education November 2018


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