The Happy Schools Programme
The Happy Schools project aims at enhancing Happiness and Wellbeing of teachers and students from K to 12, through the development of “Happiness Skills”. It’s three modules are focusing on three dimensions of care: Self-Care, Care for others, Care for the environment and the planet. Over 120 teachers and thousands of children have been part of the first implementation phase from March 2018-March 2019. The first assessment has shown very encouraging results and we have heard many moving stories about the deep positive transformations that students, teachers and even families have gone through. We are now expanding the program to more schools and the Ministry of Education of Vietnam has been communicating several times about the importance of bringing Happiness to the schools.
Programme Implementation : The Happy Path in Phu Cat Primary School, Hué Vietnam
The Happy Schools programme has manifested in different ways throughout the first year of implementation, from the introduction of in-class exercises about social and emotional learning, to the inclusion of activities that seek to foster care for the environment, to, at times teacher sharing circles.
For instance, implementation has led to building of infrastructure, for example in Phu Cat Primary School (Hue) where the principal Miss Huong Giang initiated the creation of a “Happy Path” in June. Together with a team of teachers and help from volunteers, from an unused stretch of land in the school’s courtyard, they built a beautiful path for mindful walking, that also incorporates spaces for students and teachers to sit and practice mindful breathing, but also to sing “Happy songs”, and cultivate positive emotions such as gratitude and kindness.
The team from Phu Cat, with the support of a team of volunteers from “University without Classroom” a friend and partner organization from an NGO called Action for the City , and members of the ELI team have now completed building the Happy Path, which principal shared will be her special way of welcoming students back into the new school year.
The principal shared that the school’s experience of the Happy Schools Programme so far has been just like walking on a “Happy Path”, it is a way of gradual transformation of individual and collective practice involving all members of the school community: “Happy Path is the work of our school, including students, teachers and parents.” The idea emerged almost one year before the Happy Path was built, embodying this gradual process of transformation that the school is going through, allowing different members of the school community and of the broader community to get involved and to contribute ideas, to the design and the execution of the path.
Miss Huong Giang and her team of teachers also shared that their intention is to get students more and more involved by inviting them to share their own ideas and giving them opportunities to co-create within the school environment, for Phu Cat to keep walking on the path of Happy Schools. This will generate a feeling of shared responsibility, where all members of the school community see that they contribute to making Phu Cat a happy schooling environment.
The power of Community
This project was born out of the contributions from many different hearts, heads and hands, connecting the school administration, parents from the school community, and the team of volunteers from University without classroom, as well as the Hue University team who is in charge of assessing the impact of the project, and the ELI team. Indeed, many people volunteered their time and energy to allow for the creation of the Happy Path.
While only some teachers have been attending the Happy Schools training programme, initiatives like the Happy Path allow the whole of the school community, beyond these teachers and their students alone to benefit from the programme.
Ideas travelling beyond borders
On another note, Phu Cat also built a “friendship bench” in the school courtyard, based on an idea shared by a teenager in Switzerland. The idea behind the friendship bench was to allow students who spend school recess times by themselves to find each other, so that no one would spend this time alone.
This is a lovely example of a very simple idea mentioned by the principal and her team during the initial training programme, turning into a beautiful story of transformation that will benefit the whole school community.