UGDSB launches new Umbrella Project

October 16, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown

The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) has launched a new project for staff and students focusing on mental health and well-being.  

The UGDSB, starting in October, will have the Umbrella Project role out in their 65 elementary schools and 11 high schools across the board. Staff, students, and parents will have access throughout the school year to monthly themes, activities, and curriculum focused on mental health and well-being. 

“It’s really important now more than ever, that we create a sense of connectedness, relationship, and community,” said Jenny Marino, mental health and addictions lead at UGDSB. “Because this is broad, there’s a staff component, students and parents, we’re able to hopefully give people a little more of an enhanced sense of connectedness.” 

Dr. Jen Forristal, a naturopathic doctor who focuses primarily on pediatric mental health, created the Umbrella Project. 

The Umbrella Project, through its teacher-led curriculum, looks to provide people with the skills sets to help protect themselves and work through stressors they are facing. The umbrella, an object that is used to protect us from the weather, is a symbol for the skills sets learned to protect people from stressors or “weather”.  

Typically purchased by a single school, Marino said that UGDSB was able to access the programs content for the entire board by working closely with the Umbrella Project. 

“We have so many schools in our board and I felt strongly that I didn’t want to just pick one or two schools,” said Marino. 

With stressors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic one thing Marino said the board can do, is create an environment that is calm, welcoming, and supportive to optimize learning. She adds that it’s “never been more important,” to also address how well-being and learning insect with equity and inclusion. 

“Wellness is experience differently for people with different abilities and different identities and there’s a lot of systemic inequities that intersect with wellness,” said Marino. “We can’t assume that everybody is well the same way so it really allows us to create more of those conversations too.” 

For the 2020/21 school year, themes that the board will be looking at through the months include empathy, self-compassion, healthy lifestyle, mindfulness, autonomy, intrinsic motivation, and mastery. The board will also have a monthly column for the schools newsletters that will relate to the theme that month. 

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