It should always be COOL TO BE ME, says Western Province Preparatory School

| September 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Linda Bruce

Last term, Western Province Preparatory School (WPPS) in Claremont, Cape Town, implemented the COOL TO BE ME Grade 6 programme for the fifth consecutive year.

It has become a firmly established and keenly anticipated component of the WPPS Grade 6 experience. COOL TO BE ME is a home-grown, South African company that develops and publishes educational material, which promotes the social and emotional development of children between the ages of six and 13.

The overall objective of the Department of Basic Education’s national curriculum statement (NCS) for the life orientation subject area is to “holistically educate a child for successful and meaningful living in a rapidly changing and transforming society”.1 It is a responsibility keenly felt by both educators and parents. COOL TO BE ME aims to facilitate conversations between teachers, parents and children about the curriculum so that we can indeed achieve this objective.

Identity formation

The developmental stage of a Grade 6 child is characterised by the challenge of identity formation. The world in which today’s children are growing up is dominated by the media, delivered via social media platforms. This extremely stimulating external environment has impacted on how children, in this crucial developmental phase, form their identity. Broadly speaking, they tend to build their identity on three basic elements of their external environment:

  • what I look like
  • what I own
  • what I achieve.

These external aspects of life are transient and create a very vulnerable platform for identity and self-esteem development. When there is external proof that they look good, own what other people own (or more) and achieve to the expected standard, they feel good about themselves; but when they feel that these elements are missing, they fall into a personal decline, creating a kind of emotional see-saw or roller-coaster. It is this lack of healthy identity and resilient self-esteem that creates the opportunity for the behaviours and choices of our youth which are so detrimental to their well-being: bullying, depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse.

Internal foundations In contrast to these external influences, COOL TO BE ME encourages the learners to build their identity on an internal foundation.

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I important?
  • Why is everyone else important?
  • How do I create my life?
  • What are my choices in my generation?

These are the questions explored in COOL TO BE ME that encourage learners to explore their character, passions, personal beliefs and values, and their ability and openness to work together as a team through fun, experiential learning.

Well-being at WPPS

WPPS implements COOL TO BE ME as an enrichment programme over 12 consecutive weeks. It is facilitated by a WPPS staff member who, having been trained by COOL TO BE ME, creates a safe environment where all are encouraged to participate actively. Each one-hour session begins with a fun, interactive game/exercise that clearly links with, and introduces, the topic being covered. With the aid of a personal journal, learners reflect on the topic, both individually and in groups.

Furthermore, discussions are facilitated that promote generalisation and application, giving more long-term meaning to the material. Reflection and discussion are then extended to the learner’s home and family by way of fun activities that engage the whole family. The flexible nature of the programme makes it manageable within the school calendar and the busy home environment.

Teachers are supported with an easy-to-follow, thoroughly resourced teachers’ manual. Throughout the material, clear curriculum links are made to personal and social well-being as well as creative arts and physical education.

The outcome of COOL TO BE ME for each learner is an understanding and acceptance of their identity that is essential for the healthy development of self-esteem, self-worth and the fostering of mutual respect within the peer group. In a fun, experiential way, COOL TO BE ME aims to equip the participants as self-fulfilled individuals and active, meaningful members of society.

Positive feedback

Do the WPPS boys enjoy the experience? This is what some of them have said:

“It was a great learning experience and helped me know who I am and show that everyone is great.”

“COOL TO BE ME has helped me believe in myself and take the pressure off.”

“COOL TO BE ME is a great programme. It changed my life and helped me feel great about myself.”

COOL TO BE ME is implemented in over 18 schools in South Africa, with equal enthusiasm and tangible results.

The International School of Cape Town (ISCT), which has been implementing the programme for five years, had the following to say: “COOL TO BE ME offers such a useful, positive approach to growing young people with a solid selfconcept and awareness about themselves. It really scaffolds a lot of baby steps which I think people often assume are happening, but aren’t.”

Springfield Convent Junior School has also been a loyal supporter of COOL TO BE ME. One of its parents had this to say: “I would just like to thank you so much for all you have done for the Grade 6 girls. My daughter spoke of the programme so much and I know it had a profound impact on her self-confidence and acceptance of others.”

WPPS, ISCT and Springfield Convent, among many others, have enjoyed both implementing COOL TO BE ME and the benefits of this ‘cool conversation’.

Reference:

1. See, for example, http://www.education.gov.za/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket= TmPNDABySKE%3D&.

Category: Featured Articles, Spring 2013

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