Project One Sky is a human development & wellbeing programme designed to nurture resilience and to help schoolchildren to cope with and flourish in the modern world. It’s aim is twofold – to teach schoolchildren to look after their own mental health in the context of a rapidly changing social, cultural and technological world, as well as to affect society in a positive manner by focussing on the ethical components of wellbeing. It is delivered as a series of workshops, using a blended learning approach, i.e. a collaboration between the teacher and a trained specialist via pre-recorded video. Following the eight week long course, a week-long group project applying the learning is undertaken and presented in the final week of the course.
There is an increasing epidemic of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression in society, due to a number of factors. By raising awareness and providing methods to deal with these factors, schoolchildren learn to better look after their own wellbeing, as well as that of those around them. The scientific consensus is that these factors generally fit into the following three categories: biological, i.e. factors that affect physiological wellbeing; psychological, i.e. how we see ourselves; and social; i.e. our relationship with each other and our environment. Project One Sky addresses elements of each of these factors, relevant to Irish schoolchildren. The seven topics covered include sleep and nutrition, meditation, ethical smartphone use, and truthful communication skills. They are addressed one topic per week over seven weeks, followed by a general workshop to reflect on the learning outcomes of the course, and finally by a two week project carried out by the students. Throughout the course there is a focus on ethical wellbeing, i.e. on meaning, as a route to more long term happiness and wellbeing, for both the individual and society. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation will also be introduced in the course; both are scientifically proven methods for increasing wellbeing.
The eight sessions will be delivered by the Life Skills/Wellbeing teacher who plays a series of videos of a specialist talking on each topic, and will lead a guided discussion on elements within each topic. The video workshops will be delivered over eight sessions, with the eighth session used to reflect on the learning outcomes. The specialists who deliver the video workshops are qualified in their area and to speak to the relevant age groups. The final two weeks will involve group project work; the students undertake a project to incorporate a positive habit based on the course into their lives for a week, reflect on its benefits for the individual, the group and the greater community, and present their findings to the class. Further details on the project work can be found on the following page.
The reasons for the blended learning approach are manifold; the financial and logistic advantages of a single class length workshop should be immediately apparent, but we also believe that schoolchildren will benefit more from receiving the expertise of a specialist, with the discussion lead in a familiar setting and without disruption of their timetable. Therefore, the participation and indeed enthusiasm of the teacher are paramount. The course aims to create a learning environment not only for the schoolchildren, but for the teachers also. Many of the topics covered may not be familiar to the teacher, and so s/he is provided with a handbook giving them extra information to enable them to lead the discussion. Prior reading material is also given.
The course aims not only to raise awareness but to help the student to develop positive habits around the learning outcomes. In order to achieve these aims, learning must continue outside of the classroom. The project delivered at the end of the course should include individual work done weekly by each of the students as well as a (mostly) week long project carried out by groups of three students. Examples of these projects are dropping electronics after 9pm each night and studying its influence on sleep patterns, eating more nutritious food to study its effect on mood, taking up a week long guided meditation course, taking up a new sport, or setting a positive intention before each social media post.
This is a pilot course, and so feedback from both the teacher and the pupils is strongly encouraged. Questionnaires to be filled out both prior to as well as after the course will be distributed. We appreciate any feedback given, and hope you enjoy the course.
Dr. Colm Fallon
Founder, Project One Sky