Discover data and reports gathered by the Pastoral Lead of a Primary School on the Isle of Man, showing the impact of Book of Beasties suite of resources, including The Mental Wellness Card Game, SEL Platform and The Happy Heads Card Game.
Author: Stephanie Birchenough - Pastoral Lead at Bunscoill Rhumsaa Primary School, Isle of Man
Preface: Book of Beasties Mental Wellness Card Game was something that I initially came across when researching how to support children with their mental health remotely, during COVID lockdown of 2020. At that time, Book of Beasties had created content known as The World of Wellness Week, I discovered the videos on YouTube.
They were really fun, simple and yet inspiring, as it was a fun way to introduce the topic of mental health for young people. I was able to create links to the videos to introduce the Beasties and provide some emotional support to my pupils using an online approach to learning.
Initially, I used the Wellness Week lesson plans from the learning platform with the videos, when I returned to school after lockdown, I used them face to face primarily with a group of 7 children, who were vulnerable and had been through some Adverse Childhood Experiences such as parents with mental health challenges, parental separations, trauma / abuse, witness to domestic violence and bereavement. I worked with a group of pupils providing nurture support for 2 terms.
The Book of Beasties resources provided me with a terms work of lessons in total, as the resources are so flexible and adaptable. Since then, I have worked with a further 22 pupils using Book of Beasties directly, and have introduced it as a whole school resource for teachers to use in mainstream classes in both Key Stage 1 and 2, as part of the PSHE curriculum, so that we can begin to have healthy conversations around the topic of mental health.
The Card Game and lesson plans are fantastic for discussion points. They have supported pupils in identifying emotions, giving them self-regulation strategies, improving self-esteem, building empathy and provided opportunities for the children to develop and form new friendships. We were able to extend and adapt the lessons to suit the needs of the children.
There are a number of methods in which it can be delivered, I/. e physically playing the card game, doing yoga poses, watching a video online, listening to a story and completing a worksheet, it is made so that it is inclusive to all those taking part, irrelevant of their learning style, it was able to meet the needs of children who learn in different ways, such as kinaesthetic, auditory or visual learners.
The Card Game is so much fun, the children love changing the rules, like trading cards, they often say it is like ‘Pokémon” which many of our young people already enjoy playing and trading. The lessons are already created for you, there is no planning involved, with the exception of gathering some pens and paper, from a teacher’s perspective, who works with children who are often hyper aroused and can display challenging behaviours, it is great to have something that is quick and easy to use, something that we can get started with and become engaged with, the moment we get together.
The ability to adapt the activities really led to providing the children with even more memorable experiences, for example when we focussed on The Fever Folk and discussed about comforting foods, eating a well-balanced diet, how food affects our mind and body, we then worked together as a group to make ‘Nanas Yummy Vegetable Soup’. When thinking about Gemini and his unkind ‘inner bully’ thoughts, we used the idea of the Magic Mirror from the item cards in the game to design and create our own Positivity Glasses to wear.
The Social and Emotional Learning Platform provided resources to implement ‘story time’ into our routine, some of the stories were linked to the term’s topic, or to the Beastie we were focusing on, and others we read for pure enjoyment, which for many of the children who attended the group, was not something that took place often in their lives. These meaningful moments really helped to develop a positive attachment between myself and the children, it was also a great time to practice mindfulness and quite calm time, particularly at the end of a session or school day.
In respect of supporting children’s wellbeing, the biggest impact, I observed was on pupils’ self- esteem and confidence. For children who lacked in these areas or who struggled with communication skills, they were able to use the Beasties to share their own feelings, they were able to relate to the Beasties personalities.
This was really insightful as I was able to communicate using the same methods, by using the same language to extend and open up conversations, that enabled me to understand the pupils on a deeper level. The children have been able to extend their emotional vocabulary by playing the game and being participants in the discussions.
Book of Beasties has been supporting children within our educational setting, with myself from Year 3 to Year 6 (8–11-year-olds)
Below is a snap shot of some of the data that I collected when using Book of Beasties – I asked the children to share their mood before and after our session, using the mood charts provided with the booklet. I assigned each emotion a numerical value, for example Angry = 1 to Very Ecstatic=7
You can see that within most lessons, the majority of the children had improved on their mood scores by the end of each session. The children from this particular cohort were really impacted the most by physically playing The Book of Beasties Mental Wellness Card game and creating the paper origami pieces.
This particular pupil (ref: graph 3* above) had pre-identified mental health concerns. I introduced him to the Beasties resources within school to offer a level of emotional support whilst wating for outside agency involvement. This child’s confidence, mood, level of depression, friendships, and attitude to learning are all improved. Regular meetings with the pupils’ parents have been able to confirm that the child’s regulation, emotions and his self-esteem have improved.
For another group of pupils, aged 8 years old, I used a different approach to collect data. For this cohort I used The Boxall Profile – this is an assessment regularly used for children who require nurture support. From the assessment, a set of targets were created and strategies noted of how the pupil can be supported, Book of Beasties was used as part of their planned intervention. It was effective in improving self-esteem and confidence, listening skills, taking turns and recognising emotions. Targets were achieved in all 7 pupils after 2 terms worth of nurture support, including the use of Book of Beasties.
Below is an example of an assessment and the targets set and achieved.
Examples of pupil feedback:
“I feel I am like Bronze child because I find it hard to focus and get easily distracted, it’s nice to know that I am not alone”
“I love the Beasties – it has helped me feel calm when I am sad or angry”
“I didn’t know what a comfort was and now I do, it can be anything that helps me feel calm and happy”
“I am more confident now”
“After our 2nd session I knew this would help me, so I asked my parents to buy me the Happy Heads Game so we can play it at home”
Happy Heads game:
After playing and implementing the game, the online resources from the Learning Platform and seeing how much positive impact this has made to the children that I work with, I ordered the Happy Heads Card Game, which is a Home Edition of the Mental Wellness Card Game. As a parent, I thought I would try Book of Beasties resources with my own child, who suffers from anxiety.
My child loves playing the game at home “I love the Beasties, mummy my favourite Beasties are Deki, Akky and Bronze Child”. When I asked my child why he liked those Beasties best, his reply was “they are just like me”. He then transferred the idea of the game into his learning at school. He told me that he was asked to create a comic strip, so he used the idea of creating his own Beastie character who was lost and feeling worried, so that he could then develop an idea to help it.
The strategies within the game, such as the goggles, positive posture and the magic mirror has allowed me to encourage my child to see positives in himself, to teach him that it is Ok to make mistakes at times and that we can learn from them. He has also been able to show empathy by suggesting that he “can help the Jumble Twins because I am good at maths and phonics”. We have regularly made reference to the ‘bellows’ or the paper boat race, as a way of controlling our breathing when he is feeling overwhelmed. The game has given us, as a family, a set of vocabulary that we can use to share how we are feeling, in way that is age appropriate and in a way that allows our feelings to be understood and validated.
My child still struggles with his anxiety, however the vocabulary learnt from the Happy Heads allows me to communicate with my child in a way that he can understand, that provides him with the ability to self-regulate and think about how he can help himself feel better, and to perhaps come at things from a different perspective. The emotional learning journey is ongoing and develops each time we play the game.
I have recommended the Book of Beasties Mental Wellness Game to a number of other professionals, including Headteachers, Educational Psychologists, Physiotherapists and other educators who take on a pastoral role. I organised for Phil Tottman to visit us and deliver training to other professionals – below is the feedback from some of those who attended.
Examples of professional feedback
“Love how flexible the Book of Beasties is to not only open up discussions, but how it models relationship building and an acceptance of vulnerabilities.” (Virtual Deputy Headteacher for Inclusion)
“I found it very inspiring and am thinking about how I can use this within my class.” (KS2 teacher)
“Thanks for organising was fantastic and I even got to play it when I got back with a group of year 6 girls, they loved it!” (Pastoral Lead)
‘I was trying to think of something that this even compares to in school, and I can’t think of anything that we have used before” (KS2 Teacher)
“I really like the versatility of it” (Pastoral Lead)
“We are so excited about it and have had confirmation that we can order Book of Beasties this morning! Hooray! Thanks so much for the invite! Most useful training, we have had in years” (Secondary School SENCO and Pastoral staff)
To conclude, I would highly recommend Book of Beasties Mental Wellness Card Game / Happy Heads and online resources, to any parent or professional who is working with young people, it is simple yet effective, it is versatile, creative and fun.
From my experiences using the resources, it has really been something that children have fully engaged with and has provided the opportunity to talk about difficult emotions and sensitive topics in a safe way, as well as empowering the children to learn skills that they will need to maintain good mental health for years and years to come.