• Take Advantage of “Nature’s Therapy” Through Outdoor Mental Wellness

    by Natalie Barnard, Educational Diagnostician and Assessment Consultant at Pearson

    A teacher and four children engaged in a science activity at a wooden table outdoors.

    We all know the rejuvenating effect of stepping into the warm sunshine and breathing deeply. There’s something about being outside that just makes us feel refreshed and inspired — and there’s no better time than spring for educators and students alike to take a welcome respite from the confines of the classroom (and the ubiquity of screens) to embrace outdoor education. 

    The great news is that being outside doesn’t just feel good; it’s also good for us. That’s why spending time outside should be an integral part of a school’s or district’s comprehensive approach to holistic student health. 

    Here are some tips for getting your class out of the classroom and taking advantage of nature’s nurturing power. 

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  • 5 Ways Educators Can Help Students Build Resilience in an Uncertain World

    by Natalie Barnard, Educational Diagnostician and Assessment Consultant at Pearson

    A woman comforting a sad girl in a school hallway decorated with children's artwork.

    The world today can be a tumultuous place for the younger generation, who are often bombarded with daunting visuals and discussions of global conflicts, the implications of climate change and political division in their own community. The result is that close to two-thirds of kids and teens say that things are going just fair (36%) or poorly (28%) for kids and teenagers in the U.S. today, according to the “State of Kids and Families in America 2024” report.

    While news filtering strategies may work for younger children, adolescents are at a developmental stage where they need a more nuanced approach to help them process information and articulate their concerns. Today’s teens struggle with a range of everyday challenges that can include grades, peer or societal pressures, family issues and more. Some are naturally resilient and can work through these hurdles and anxieties; however, it’s not innate for everyone, and equipping teens with different ways to tackle these big feelings will support mental health and overall well-being. 

    Recognizing that not all students have access to supportive role models at home, schools can proactively take the lead in providing these essential lessons, with the aim to work collaboratively and reinforce any wraparound work done by student caregivers and families. At one campus where I worked, it was the expectation that the first 10 minutes of every day was spent on a mini-lesson that spurred conversations and helped kids learn coping skills to help set them up for success.

    I encourage all educators to consider how they can play a role in empowering students by incorporating SEL lessons and other activities to help them practice navigating uncertainty and overcoming obstacles. Below are some suggestions on how you can get started.

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  • Are You Empowering Your Educators? 4 Ways to Make a Difference

    by Natalie Barnard, Educational Diagnostician and Assessment Consultant at Pearson

    Smiling teacher assisting young student

    Educators always remember those leaders who made a difference — those who encouraged, motivated and appreciated them. Before I joined Pearson as an assessment consultant, I spent 17 years in public education, and I know I remember those stellar leaders.

    One of my favorite principals knew we would all perform better when we recognized we had a voice, so he made sure we did. He assembled a leadership team to provide input, but he didn’t stop there: He also asked each of us to seek input from our departments to gain more robust insight. It was a concrete way for him to demonstrate that everyone’s opinion was sought-after and valid. He also had an open-door policy, literally, where he would welcome any of us into his office for a conversation.

    As we all know, administrators deal with some rough stuff, but he never let that infiltrate his demeanor with staff — or students and families. He was always positive and always welcoming. To me, he was the epitome of the type of leader I think most educators strive to be.

    How do you get there?

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