Hampstead Heath education team delighted as ‘secret garden’ family sessions improve mental health for vulnerable children
PUBLISHED: 07:45 18 September 2020
Hampstead Heath’s education team has welcomed children back to its “secret garden” and found getting families involved – in small groups – in the outdoor world had made a difference to the wellbeing of those who had particularly struggled during lockdown.
Abi Tinckler leads the City of London Corporation (CoLC) education team on the Heath. She explained how programmes across August – and which are extending into the autumn – had engaged people particularly in need.
She said: “Families have had exclusive access to our secret garden – it’s a beautiful, inviting space that’s closed off to the public. It gives small groups the ability to explore the environment safely.”
“People book for a specific time slot, and we have a maximum of five people, so six with a facilitator. With the families we do some really exciting wellbeing activities, from shelter-building to pond dipping. “The idea is to do activities that give people the opportunity to work to together, create something new, and have fun.”
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Abi said her team, who have also put on sessions for under 5s, had been focussed on helping to improve young people’s mental health.
She added: “Given the obvious difficulties many people had with their mental health and wellbeing over lockdown, we were focussed on how we could help people to improve that.”
Abi said they had used a “tried and tested” method of evaluating wellbeing created by experts from UCL which asked participants in their sessions to rate how “positive, engaged and inspired” they felt before and after taking part in a session.
According to these evaluations, the emotional wellbeing of families taking part in activities increased, on average, 22 per cent after getting stuck in to the sessions.
“We were really, really delighted with that,” Abi said. “It gives us encouragement to continue developing activities and broadening our reach with local families.”
According to the CoLC, feedback has been “really positive”, Heath bosses quoted one family’s response: “The girls loved every moment of their time exploring the secret garden. It was an amazing real-life experience pond dipping and the girls managed to see everything from leeches to baby newts. They can’t stop talking about it!”
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