The OUR Generation project is a Peace IV funded project that provides a unique opportunity for communities, north and south of the Border, to work together to halt the intergenerational impact of trauma and to build emotional resilience and peace for generations to come.

PlayBoard NI is one of seven regional organisations working in partnership on the project and recently delivered the Spaces to Be programme in Sacred Heart Boys School in North Belfast. Joanne Smyth, Principal of the Primary School shared her feedback with us.

Why did you get involved in PlayBoard’s Spaces to Be programme?

Our children at Sacred Heart PS deserve the best opportunities that life can provide. Recognising that play has a critical role and value, both in and out of school, this project will enhance and develop staff skills through the Spaces to Be programme. By engaging in this programme we aim to create a culture that supports play, deepening staff knowledge and expertise in play techniques, play types and approaches whilst allowing children to participate fully in the process – both challenging and supporting the child through play to build resilience, develop social skills, problem solve and to have fun! We want to create an environment for children to play freely.

Our school is in one of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland and we want to let the children and families who support our school, know that we support them, that they are entitled to the same opportunities as everyone else. As a school community we will help lead the change whilst actively supporting the child’s right to play. As O. Fred Donaldson said, “Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.” As educators it is our role to help transform the space we currently have and support staff development so that we can sustain and transfer these skills, maximising opportunities for all of our children, both currently and in the future. “Play is not a luxury, it’s a necessity“, KR Jamison.

How did staff benefit from the training?

Our staff team have already started implementing the learning from the training. Mrs Graham facilitated two lessons on the topic of resilience using a bouncing ball as a resource to explain this topic. The boys were encouraged to think of themselves as bouncing balls and during the second session they discussed times when they did bounce back and how they did it. They illustrated their discussions in drawings. The messages from OUR Generation team in building resilience and emotional well-being in children are very much consistent and build upon the great work already being carried out in Sacred Heart Boys Primary School. We look forward to working with PlayBoard’s OUR Generation team to implement the full programme with our children.

Feedback from staff:

  • Loved the poster for the types of play – a brilliant reminder of how important play is and how it can help heal children with trauma.
  • I thought the course was very well delivered. Very informative … thank you.
  • That it is ok to talk about difficult conversations and not to stop play when the adults are uncomfortable but the kids are.
  • Lots of practical ideas for play.
  • How to link play to the curriculum.
  • How to include loose parts in our play.
  • The importance of allowing children to express their creativity during play.
  • I now value play more than ever.
  • I was never aware of how therapeutic play can be for children and how it can support children who have experienced trauma.
  • I am looking forward to implementing all the learning I have taken and allowing children to reap the benefits of free play.

PlayBoard facilitated two sessions with a group of parents. Over the two sessions parents had the opportunity to explore the benefits of play and how it can support children’s development, positive mental health and build resilience. As parents got involved in the type of play that builds resilience in children one commented, “I didn’t expect to enjoy that so much.“

During the session they discussed how to support children overcome failures/obstacles and how play is ‘training for the unexpected’. We explored how play offers children opportunities to experience a wide range of emotions from euphoria, joy and excitement to disappointment, anger and frustration which in turn helps them to identify and regulate their emotions.

“I bounced back, now I help others. I am brave, I am strong, I can do it. I am resilient”.

Funding for the OUR Generation project has been awarded through the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).