A new podcast is helping schoolchildren understand their mental health, so they can explore ways to nurture it. And while it’s for kids, we’d quite like a listen to it ourselves!
The brilliant initiative, named Grow Your Mind, has been written by young people of the grand old age of 12 for their little peers, aged five.
Using animals as characters, the family of four – an elephant, a guard dog, an owl and a sooty [a black-feathered bird] – are used to explain the complexities of a human brain.
The animals all live inside our heads, with each representing a certain part of anatomy.
The elephant represents memory; the guard dog is the amygdala [the grey matter inside each cerebral hemisphere] involved with emotions, behaviour, and processing fear; the owl is the pre-frontal cortex which regulates cognitive function; and the sooty bird represents the ability to sort and organise information.
By telling stories with these characters, it begins to break down the scientific jargon often associated with understanding how our minds or bodies work.
Instead, the characters are used to illustrate brain function and psychological issues, such as anxiety or sadness, with tales of their trials and tribulations.
For example, should the guard dog get overexcited and sense a threat, she or he may bark loudly which means the others can’t communicate, and that presents trouble.
Alice Peel, a primary school teacher and co-founder of Grow Your Mind, said she felt privileged to see uncomfortable conversations transform into positive learning.
She explained: “It’s been incredible watching these children have to call on flexibility and be comfortable with being uncomfortable as the new norm.
“We’ve all got it; it can be good, it can be bad, and we can learn to look after it from a really young age. We’re trying to lift the focus from happiness, which is one great feeling, to flourishing and to embracing all the emotions and learning the simple things you can do on a daily basis to protect and strengthen your mental health.”
Together with the pupils at Woollahra Public School in Sydney, Australia, they hope the podcast will be a great resource for our future generations to stay resilient.
Meanwhile, the school’s principal, Nicole Molloy, added: “I used to hear a lot, ‘the kids need to be more resilient’. We don’t say that they need to be able do this maths problem; we explicitly teach them how to complete the maths problem.
“So, why shouldn’t we be doing that for mental health? Why shouldn’t we be giving them the building blocks for being more resilient or hopeful?”
The success of the podcast is already taking shape as the children use the animal analogies in everyday conversation and when resolving playground fights, for example, saying that their guard dog got angry when they lash out at another classmate.
Ms Molly is a big believer in mental health being at the heart of education, adding: “I always say to parents, yes we have a high focus on our academic learning, but that is going to be compromised if we don’t focus on mental health and social wellbeing.”
We only wish we had listened to the podcast when we were younger.