School health in action:
Our students, their voices
What's your wish to make your school a happier place to be?
That's the question Elk Island Catholic Schools (EICS) leaders set out to answer through the Student Voice for Mental Health project. Their goal was to get students involved in identifying priorities and generating ideas to improve mental health at school.
Here's how they got started:
- First, EICS leaders developed surveys to get students' ideas, perspectives, and insights on what makes a healthy and happy school.
- Next, they invited students from all EICS schools – in Sherwood Park, Camrose, Fort Saskatchewan, Vegreville, and surrounding areas – to dive deeper into survey results. Each school displayed posters encouraging students to talk to their teachers about getting involved.
- Students from each school took part in half-day, in-person workshops tailored by grade level (grade 4–8 and grade 9–12) and led by trained student facilitators, supported by EICS staff. Participants did activities designed to get them thinking and talking about mental health at school, like visioning games, small group conversations, gallery walks, and sticker dot votes.
After the workshops, everyone worked together to compile the data and make sense of it.
With support from partners at AHS, EICS staff analyzed and themed the data. Students then took the lead on sharing findings back with school authority leaders. They focused on five priority areas identified by students at the workshops:
- Calm school environments
- Caring staff
- Hands-on learning experiences
- Pets in schools
- Opportunities to share their interests with others
Students used direct quotes from their peers to bring each concept to life. They encouraged EICS leaders to reflect on how each priority could improve the student experience and support mental health at school.
Looking forward, each EICS school community can look to these priorities with confidence, knowing that students have shared their perspectives on how to make school a happy and healthy place to be.
Student Voice for Mental Health is a commitment.
This project is much more than the sum of its parts. Beyond a survey, a set of workshops, or a mental health plan, it's a story about amplifying student voice. Adults heard what kids and teens had to say. Students felt respected and valued, and school authority leaders were challenged to think differently about mental health. Now, school communities are taking charge of the ideas that resonate most with them.
One EICS student summed it up this way: "This was different...I actually feel like our ideas matter."
Learn more about this story
- Student voice for mental health (infographic)
Elk Island Catholic Schools
For more information and tips to take action, go to: