Context Focus Method
Findings Implications Gallery
Implications and Future Investigations
The project was successful. By all measures students reported and displayed lower levels of anxiety. There is a wealth of research that supports the conclusion that teaching students mindfulness and regularly exposing them to nature reduces stress. The degree of stress reduction was significant. The simplest and most direct implications are that these strategies are effective. A second important implication is that the training for teachers to use the strategies is readily available.
Daily practice of mindfulness helped all students improve their self-regulation. How it helped varied greatly between students. Some students consciously used mindfulness in the classroom. Even students who had difficulty, or were resistant to mindfulness practice benefited from the practice and for each student there was at least one occasion observed where the student was able to benefit.
To implement mindfulness requires teacher training. Programs for teachers are readily available and there are resources for working with children. This requires an investment of time, but the reward for this investment goes beyond simply reducing stress about COVID-19. Mindfulness/self-regulation was useful for dealing with stress, injuries, emotional upsets, student conflict and preparation for tests.
The possible negative consequences of practising mindfulness are an avenue for further investigation. Some research suggests that students who have suffered trauma may not benefit from practising mindfulness.
Similarly outdoor education was observed to be a benefit by students. There is also literature supporting nature based education as beneficial to students. Training for outdoor education is similarly available though organizations such as SaskOutdoors.
Utilizing distance learning techniques requires different supports. School divisions have selected many different formats for distance learning; Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft LMS365, and a host of others. To be successful with any of these tools teachers require opportunities for professional development and time to learn how to implement what they learn. The rapidity with which COVID-19 thrust many teachers and students into an online learning environment has been observed by the researchers to lead to teacher and student stress and disengagement from school in some cases.
Daily use of Microsoft Teams led to familiarity and ease of use for teacher and students alike. For students who were unable to attend class it offered a way to remain connected with schoolwork and other students. For students who eventually made the move to online learning the familiarity with the online environment made the transition easier. These may not be universally applicable findings, but they were observed during and after the project. Depending on what the post-COVID school environment looks like this may be an option warranting further investigation.