Building wellness-informed practices at an elementary school through collaborative action research
According to the National Institute for Trauma and Loss, 1 in 4 children attending school have been exposed to traumatic stress (Soma & Allen, 2017). In an effort to strengthen the support for students who have experienced trauma, the purpose of this Collaborative Action Research was to build trauma informed (wellness-informed) practices at an Elementary school in rural British Columbia, Canada. Staff members met during the Professional Development days at the start of the 2018-2019 school year to create an action plan for implementing wellness-informed practices. Staff agreed that the hyperarousal of students who have experienced trauma was the greatest challenge for teaching and learning. As a result, staff collaboratively decided on implementing three new wellness-informed practices: elimination of the school bell, Fitness Fridays and Wellness Wednesdays, and mindfulness techniques. Past interventions that had been identified as effective remained; these included a school-wide Positive Behavior Support approach (Plumb, Bush & Kersevich, 2016) and the Learning Center, a safe place where students could go for academic or social/emotional support. The four participants of this collaborative action research reflected on these wellness-informed practices on a weekly basis from September 4th until November 12th. The data was transcribed and qualitatively analyzed and the following pattern codes emerged: relationships, understanding, capacity, connection and working as a team. The findings showed that the school-wide implementation of wellness-informed practices, in combination with a Positive Behavior Support approach and the Learning Center were beneficial in supporting students who had experienced trauma.