The inner wish to learn of a child is flourishing when feeling well – emotionally, cognitive and physiologically. That is why we implement the RODAWELL Project – The Romanian Danish Center for the Child Wellbeing.
We intend to generate performance in learning by creating and promoting an educational model that emphasizes the psychological wellbeing of the children, in kindergarten and primary schools.
The project lasts for three years, is financed by Velux Foundation and is implemented by the University of Bucharest through the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences in a partnership with VIA University College from Denmark. Also, the project is supported by the Ministry of Education and by the Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Pre-university Education (ARACIP).
The RODAWELL expertise and practices will be directed towards schools enrolling high numbers of children (as compared to the average of the schools network), vulnerable to risky situations such as: special educational needs, poverty, parental migration, carelessness, abuse or health issues.
- Establishing the Romanian – Danish Center for Child Wellbeing;
- Designing relevant training programs for the teaching staff;
- Assisting pilot schools and kindergartens in their efforts to improve the children’s wellbeing;
- Producing materials for kindergartens and schools as resources for managing the educational needs of children at risk, from the wellbeing perspective;
- Disseminating the materials and good practices regarding children wellbeing,
- Policy recommendation for the decision makers, regarding the adding of wellbeing as a parameter in the educational policy.
Objectives will be reached by:
- Cooperation with kindergartens and primary schools in order to develop tailored intervention for children wellbeing;
- Exchanging experiences and study visits of the teaching staff in the Danish schools;
- Adopting an interdisciplinary vision;
- Designing research plans to evaluate both the teaching staff and children perception on wellbeing and the elements that stimulate the wellbeing;
What does wellbeing mean?
Wellbeing refers to the quality of life of a person in terms of health, income, and access to education or quality social services. However, the person’s wellbeing can not be seen solely as lack of socioeconomic issues or risks. This is why we are also considering other subjective features of wellbeing such as the people’ satisfaction towards their lives, their development potential, mental health, quality of social relations.
The circumstances people live in may promote or quite oppositely undermine the wellbeing. This effect is valid also for the environment where the child spends a lot of the time – school. This may really contribute to developing as a healthy fulfilled person, ready for the community life. A life full of challenges!
Besides that, we know that wellbeing is closely related to learning, an important connection for the daily efforts and activities of the teachers. Their work becomes more and more challenging considering the social conditions and the phenomena that generate categories of vulnerable children. Access to education, mobility, and the daily stress along with the poverty, conflicts, and environmental issues bring even more pressure on the educational system and the teacher.
Child wellbeing in school
Child wellbeing in school is the RODAWELL vision regarding the school, where every child is seen as an autonomous person, benefiting from favorable circumstances for developing quality relationships with teachers and mates (or peers?) as well as for learning by exploring the social and physical environment.
In RODDAWELL we believe we can encourage the child wellbeing by promoting autonomy, quality relationships and learning by exploring the environment, an inclusive environment. These are the three dimensions on which we will focus our intervention. It is a vision supported both by research in psychology and the results of teaching practices of the Danish colleagues, our partners in the project. We can notice that in the Danish teaching practice the perspective of a child who is seen as competent and able to actively participate to school life and lately as an active citizen in the social world, is become(ing?) more and more obvious, (or salient). ?
Autonomy Quality relationships Learning environment
Learning autonomy represents a person’s ability of controlling his own learning process or by collaborating with others. Decades of research in educational psychology have shown that an autonomous student will take more responsibility for his/her actions. Offering the children the possibility to choose is a simple gesture but having important effects on their development. A child will feel more engaged in an activity he/she chose from a list offered by the teacher, increasing his/her capacity of staying focused. Also, motivation is stimulated in order to accomplish the respective task.
However, a teacher encouraging autonomy is not a teacher leaving the children by themselves. It is more like the adult in class is keeping in mind the following questions:
- Is the child able to do this thing by himself/herself?
- What is to be learnt by accomplishing the task by himself/herself?
Answering to these questions the teacher will be able to offer clear boundaries and options out of which a child will be able to choose. The child will be seen as a person able to learn whilst the adult is keeping the responsibility for the child’s development.
How can we encourage autonomy in class?
Children may learn how to set simple learning objectives, may choose types of activities and rules, team mates, their working place and time. They can pick up music and festivities themes, colors of decorations in school, the materials used. Under all circumstances the teacher is the one offering the options and development possibilities for the child. This is how dressing up with outdoor clothes or picking colors to color may represent authentic and valuable learning situations for the pre-school child. They represent the instances when something extraordinary is learnt: becoming autonomous by dressing himself/herself up or by taking the risky decision of coloring the flowers in his/her drawing in black instead of red as everyone else.
Quality relationships founded on respect and mutual care is essential because they foster an environment where learning becomes efficient. It is about cultivating positive relationships with the adults in school, the teachers, but also positive peer relationship. What makes a relationship positive? Support, encouraging and acceptance among others.
At the same time, misunderstandings, conflicts between teacher and student or among children are sometimes unavoidable but relevant to learning. These are situations that may be used as life lessons both for teachers and children out of which they can learn new things about self and the other: about the own communication way, about social desirable values. So the teacher has the power to define and set up the most appropriate actions whilst the child is encouraged to consider himself/herself as an individual able to understand the implications of the situations he/she is in.
We insist on the idea that promoting a friendly environment transforms learning. There are researches showing that the emotional processes are necessary for the abilities and knowledge acquired in school to be transferred to new life situations.
We may consider the situation of taking a tour in a museum when we expect the guide to help us understand what we see in a positive and friendly manner: encouraging us to explore, watch carefully, and ask questions so that we enlarge our horizons without the fear of being wrong or being judged. In a same way, in a positive atmosphere the teachers may help children understand the complicated world they live in.
The learning environment
It is important and necessary to start acknowledging the role of the physical environment in supporting quality of life and the learning progress. One of the leading aspects of health status is physical activity, while the relationship between this one and the school results has been shown during last decades research. It seems that physical activity has a positive influence on attention focus, memory and classroom behavior. Children need learning activities that offer the opportunity to spend time outdoors, to be active not only at cognitive level but also physically.
When we refer to learning environment we designate both space – classrooms, hallways, buildings, labs, or school yard but also the possibilities of their use and the types of relationships they foster.
Learning environment involves a social dimension. In organizing and exploring it the child may discover for instance the community he/she is part of. When school allows the children to contribute and support their communities it offers to the child the chance to feel responsible for the community wellbeing. And this is how they can develop as involved, social individuals.
How do we promote learning by exploring the environment?
For instance, the school yard may be organized in a manner that allows the children to be safe when physically active and the teachers to fulfill learning activities outdoors in a clean and stimulating environment. Green yards, gardens, play grounds, gazebos, sand, water, trees, recycled materials are just few of the elements that may promote learning by exploring the environment as well as child safety.