Upon arrival to your homestay, you’ll find your individual "Project Pack" in a tote bag on your bed. This contains your placement timetable and has been designed especially for you.
Your projects will run from Monday to Friday and repeat on a weekly basis. Everyone’s timetable will involve a minimum of six different projects, which you can find more about below.
Types of Projects
+ Activity Support (AS)
These projects take place in a clinical or community setting. Here you’ll be expected to get creative and really think about how best to help individuals who are all at varying stages of their recovery. Focus on a particular skill, like improving short-term memory, and form an interactive activity around this.
+ English for Development (EFD)
These projects take place in schools or vocational training institutes. English is a real commodity in Sri Lanka and you have the tools to help provide individuals with better career prospects and increased confidence just by speaking with your students! In addition to the practical side of English language teaching, there's also so much more you're doing.
When working in developing countries, seemingly simple, daily skills, which we take for granted, can often be overlooked, but should really be prioritised. According to a report conducted by the WHO, the skills often neglected in the developing world, but intrinsically linked to mental health are: decision-making, problem-solving, creative and critical thinking, effective communication, interpersonal skills, self-awareness and coping with emotions and stress.
In our experience, we have found that our EFD projects are a great opportunity for volunteers to role model healthy social habits and behaviours with the aim of further developing these skills amongst students and encouraging progression - both personally and professionally.
+ Children's Development (CD)
We partner with a number of children's development centres, primary schools and after school clubs to provide extracurricular English lessons. Our aim is to be role models, but not caregivers to children who are often marginalised by poverty and circumstance. There are also opportunities to coach sports such as swimming, football and cricket.
+ Special Education Activity Support (SEAS)
Alongside the psychiatric facility, you'll work in a number of schools and initiatives for those with specific needs. With an average of 26% of inpatients who reside in UK psychiatric facilities displaying overlapping additional needs, like autism or a brain injury, this is most definitely a client group you should become familiar working with.
These projects are challenging, but will put your knowledge of developmental psychology to good use. You can use a combination of physical and mental activities to really unlock the creative potential of these service users.
+ Community Outreach (CO)
These projects take place in the local community and have been requested by local community members. You could be running an after school club for kids aged 5 - 18 or running an English class for those aged 9 - 90! These projects mean so much that some people walk for miles just to attend.
Potential project disruptions
Although we make every effort to ensure your timetable isn't disrupted during your time with us, some things are unavoidable. Please read on for further information about potential project disruptions.
+ Project Cancellations
Unfortunately, not all things in life are predictable, and that can sometimes include your projects in Sri Lanka. Whilst SLV.Global take every effort to ensure that projects run on a regular basis, sometimes last minute cancellations, which are out of our control, mean that we have to find an alternative project for you to attend that week. For this reason, we value flexibility in our volunteers and an openness to jumping into last minute project changes. Sometimes, something as simple as heavy rain can lead to a project being cancelled if the service users have to travel a long way to attend.
‘Tea parties’ (donations of food from the local community) at CD projects are also an occasional occurrence, which may take focus from your planned activities.
Things like a bus strike wouldn’t really affect things in the West, but in Sri Lanka, often the country can grind to a halt and we need to roll with it. Try not to get annoyed or frustrated, it’s just the way things are sometimes and the sooner you adopt an easygoing, Sri Lankan attitude to interruptions, the better.
+ Field trip changes
Although we do our best to standardise everyone’s experience, we can’t standardise everything. You may be working with a different mental health professional to your friend who is on the same placement. Or someone may be ill, forcing the field trip to be postponed or held with more volunteers than were originally planned to attend. This is totally beyond our control and we appreciate your understanding.
+ Public holidays
Sri Lanka has many public holidays and you may have a few during your placement. Usually projects are cancelled on these days, as the service users will be engaged in their own celebrations. For example, Poya Days are celebrated each month on the full moon. These days are set aside for worship, so projects will be cancelled. Again, this is something we can’t change, nor would we want to. Participating in the local customs is all part of the awesomeness of volunteering abroad.
Your working week begins with Session Planning on a Monday morning, with your final project of the week finishing on a Friday afternoon, which means you've got your whole weekend free to explore the gorgeous island however you choose. WOOT!
We expect you to commit to the full working week each week unless, of course, you need to take some time off for your physical or mental well being.
Of course we understand that getting sick happens, and it’s not fun for everyone, but please be courteous and let your Peer Mentor know as soon as possible so that they can arrange cover for you. We’ll get you the treatment you need, whether it’s from a pharmacist, a doctor or going to the hospital, but please do inform us and don’t suffer in silence. We’re here to help and get you back fighting fit.
+ Taking leave from projects
Your timetable has been designed to ensure that you have an opportunity to take part in a variety of projects and cannot be changed. Some projects you may love, some you may find more challenging, but we’re all here to get involved and commit to a full week of work.
Volunteers cannot take leave for travel or other personal commitments. We plan timetables so that volunteers are never working or travelling alone, so choosing not to attend a project may result in it being cancelled that week, which will in turn affect the work we are ultimately able to do. Please bear this in mind when making plans for parents or partners to visit you. You will only be able to see them at the weekend and we will not be able to make an exception.
If you choose to be absent from your projects you will be removed from the team with immediate effect. Remember, this placement will be difficult at times and it’s not a holiday, so we expect you to conduct yourself as if you were at work, not on Spring Break.
Planning sessions for your projects
There is time dedicated each Monday for session planning with the rest of your team. Your project ideas should be well thought out and should always have a mental health focus, no matter the project. Please consider how your session will help to promote positive mental health and try not to fall back on "arts and crafts" each week. Because really, who does that benefit? Not the service users and certainly not your experience level. Make the most of your bank of knowledge and share! You're here to use your skills and experience to make a difference, not to colour in.
For example, we like to start our sessions off with a bit of yoga and meditation. These have been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone involved in stress, depression and anxiety, thus elevating the service users' mood and improving their mental health - all before getting stuck into the main activity!
Below you'll find some advice about themes you could base your sessions on that will really help improve the skills of the service users at your projects. This list is by no means exhaustive and we hope you come up with some excellent ideas with your team on placement.
Positive Psychology and Identity
When we have a bad day, it is very easy to focus on the negative aspects of the self and our surroundings. Positive psychology encourages the consideration of oneself, personal skills and personality traits to encourage individuals to enhance their experiences in life, whether that be in the workplace or relationships. Identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and expressions that make a person.
How can we use identity as a theme for a session that promotes positive psychology?
+ Identity Collage
The aim of this activity is to create a visual representation of your personality by cutting out images, symbols, and pictures from magazines or newspapers, which represent your identity and then sticking them all on to a piece of card to make a collage.
Different coloured pieces of card, materials, magazines, glue and scissors.
+ Self-identity Tree
Draw an outline of a large tree and branches on a piece of paper prior to your session. Teach various emotions using flashcards and actions - the more creative you are with your teaching the better! Service users must then write the emotions which relate to how they are feeling on that day on individual leaves. Service users will attach the leaves to the tree and decorate it.
Large piece of A2 paper for the tree outline; a variety of decorative materials such as colouring pens, tissue paper and paints; emotive flashcards to teach emotions.
Relaxation and Meditation
The benefits of breathing exercises and meditation include improving sleep, increasing optimism and decreasing depression and anxiety. Teaching simple breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and meditation methods is a useful tool for service users to use in the future.
Activities such as guided imagery direct the participant's attention to imagined sensory experiences, that precipitate a positive psychological and physiologic response that incorporates increased mental and physical relaxation and decreased mental and physical stress. Such exercises encourages people to imagine alternative perspectives, thoughts, and behaviours, mentally rehearsing strategies that they may subsequently actualize, thereby developing increased coping skills and ability.
How can we use relaxation techniques and meditation to create a positive mental health experience for service users?
+ Laughing Yoga
Create flashcards with pictures representing different types of laughter and give a demonstration for each. For example one flashcard may have the picture of two people shaking hands, this will represent ‘Greeting Laughter’. Go round the group and greet everybody the way you normally greet (e.g. shake hands) and replace words with laughter.
Another example could be ‘Immature Laughter’ or ‘Baby Laughter’. One person must demonstrate how a baby laughs (take turns!). Others in the group can then imitate and interpret their own version of of how a baby laughs. A third example could be ‘Conductor Laughter’. Imagine one person in the group is a conductor. There job is to direct an imaginary orchestra using arm movements and point to others in the group and they have to voice a laughter note/tune.
Flash cards and enthusiasm!
+ Mindfulness Breathing
Focus your attention on your breath, inhaling and exhaling. Really use your body language to place emphasis on the inhaling, exhaling and the rise and fall of your chest and if you want the service users to breath in or out through the nostrils or mouth. Raising your arms to demonstrate you are inhaling and lowering whilst exhaling is a really good example of how you can use body language to relay instructions. You can also use your fingers to resemble seconds when controlling your timings.
Ideas, enthusiasm and body language
+ Guided Imagery Visualization
The aim of guided imagery is to educate the patient in altering their mental imagery, replacing images that compound pain or which reconstruct distressing events, with those that emphasize physical comfort, functional capacity, mental equanimity, and optimism. For this activity arrange the service users in a circle. Ensure they are sitting comfortably - they may lay down if they wish. Using a speaker, play some relaxing/aesthetically pleasing music such as waves washing up onto shore. At first give simple instructions which solely get the service users to focus on their breathing technique then move onto giving instructions which build a positive mental image. In the past volunteers have researched simple translations for various phrases, words and instructions for the guided imagery exercise. Volunteers have used the internet, asked our in country staff team and asked their homestay families for help with the guided imagery script. The more creative you are the better!
Speaker with different varieties of relaxing/aesthetically pleasing music. For example waves washing onto shore to represent a beach or rain and tropical animal noises to represent the rainforest; a translated script giving short easy instructions intended to guide the group to positive imaginary visual representations.
Memory and Cognition
Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to adjust and reorganise information according to a changing stimulation and environment. Practising memory exercises or activities improves learning, increases confidence recalling information and permits positive neuroplasticity; an especially useful activity for individuals who have little change in their daily routine and environment.
How can we use memory activities to improve concentration whilst creating a positive mental health experience, and increase neuroplasticity for the service users?
+ Memory Segments
Service users are shown a circle divided into four, each segment has a different colour. Volunteers tap the colour segments in a pattern, service users are invited to tap the same pattern from memory.
Segments can be made by using different coloured pieces of card or simply by drawing segments on paper using different colours.
+ Item Removal
Show an assortment of items to service users for 1 minute, cover them with a sheet or towel and remove an item. Ask service users to identify the item that has been taken away. Progression here can include removing multiple items, mixing items around or reducing the amount of time the items are shown for.
Cloth and an assortment of objects.
+ Matching Pairs
Cards are laid face down on a surface and two cards are flipped face up for each turn. The objective of the game is to turn over pairs of matching cards. If a player succeeds in matching a pair, they have another turn and continue until they fail to match two cards.
+ Abacus Activity
Show service users three coloured beads or balls on a piece of string and ask them to memorise it for 30 seconds. Provide beads or balls and string and ask them to recreate the abacus. Progression here would be increased the number of beads or balls on the abacus or incorporated different shaped beads.
String and different coloured/shaped beads/balls.
+ Memory Map
Provide a simple map to the service users and ask them to draw it from memory. Progress by adding or moving things on the map to challenge recall of the service users.
Paper and pencils/pens. Create maps prior to the session. Ensure they are varying in levels of difficulty.
Problem Solving and Cognition
Have you ever contemplated a problem for days and had someone else find a solution in what seems like seconds? Practising problem-solving games or activities enhances memory, enables understanding of another person’s point of view and allows service users to practice implicating trial and error. In everyday activities, we must often develop a strategy to solve a problem. Developing the strategy involves analysis of the goal to be reached, analysis of the action steps needed, as well as any constraints that may block attainment of that goal. Along the way, we must evaluate obstacles, choose among methods for evaluating various decision paths, and compare the effects and trade-offs of each possible move. Sometimes, solutions to problems are readily available but we have to figure out a winning strategy and specific action steps ourselves.
How can we practice problem solving techniques whilst providing a positive mental health experience?
+ The Tower of Hanoi
This activity consists of three rods and a number of disks of different sizes, which can slide onto any rod. The puzzle starts with the disks in a neat stack in ascending order of size on one rod, the smallest at the top. The objective is to move the entire stack to another rod. Only one disk can be moved at a time. Each move consists of taking the upper disk from one of the stacks and placing it on top of another stack. No disk may be placed on top of a smaller disk.
Progression: Start with just three disks and then progress to make the activity more challenging.
x3 toilet roll tubes and a used cardboard box. Cut out a base from the cardboard box and stick the 3 toilet roll tubes to the base. Use the cardboard box and cut different sized circles. Cut a hole in the middle of each circle so they can slide over the tubes.
+ Mental Rotation
Cut out an image onto a large piece of card. Cut out various other images which are the same size with a similar outline. Service users must then choose the correct image which matches the stencil cut out. Simple shapes can be used if working with service users who are less able.
Create the mental rotation sheets before the start of the session using paper/card and scissors.
Spatial Awareness and Movement
Spatial awareness is the ability to use knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in a given space, including understanding how this knowledge may change according to placement, speed and distance.
Engaging in physical activity for thirty minutes a day can improve mood, reduce stress and improve self-esteem. Furthermore, research now indicates that slow movements to create body awareness, as well as regular exercise, can benefit individuals psychologically by reducing stress and feelings of depression.
How can we incorporate movement into spatial awareness activities to create a positive mental health experience?
+ Mirror Imaging
Service users are asked to get into pairs and face each other. One service user moves whilst the other attempts to mirror their partner’s movements to create a mirror image. This activity could be complemented by the use of music or dance to make it fun. Both service users should have an opportunity to be the “Mirror Image”.
A speaker if you are introducing imitative dance.
This is a great way to open and close a session. We are not asking any of our volunteers to be yoga masters, if you are then great! The aim is to provide service users with a gentle form of exercise by providing various stretching exercises where there is an emphasis on the concentration of movements and breathing.
Work together with your fellow volunteers to prepare a routine prior to your session. It is important to know beforehand the abilities of the service uses you will be working with as this could affect the types of exercise you will be able to demonstrate.
Portable speaker, calm relaxing music.
Drama Therapy and Self Expression
Drama therapy utilises theatre techniques to promote mental health and increase mood elevation. Psychosocial interventions that use drama therapy have been used to care for individuals with schizophrenia and has been linked to developmental approaches in psychology as a form of psychotherapy. Furthermore, drama therapy can increase confidence and socialisation within groups by allowing service users to practice new ways of behaving and communicating. Such activities act as a cathartic means for expression, relieving stress and anxiety within service users through the use of art and creativity. Creativity calls on many different parts of the brain, and strengthens the connections between them such as the attention, salience and imagination network.
How can we use creative drama and theatre techniques to create a positive mental health experience?
+ Emotive Animal Dice
Create two dice prior to the session. On the one die draw an image of a different animal on each face; lion, dog, cat, elephant, tiger and monkey. On the second die draw a face representing a different emotion on each side; happy, surprised, sad, angry, confused and scared. Using the same emotions and animals also created flash cards prior to the session.
At the start of the session, using the flashcards, teach the vocab for the animal names and emotions. Hold up each flashcard and say the vocab and get the service users to repeat. Ensure there is a focus on correct pronunciation. The more creative you are with teaching the vocab the better!!!
Moving on, roll the animal die and whichever animal lands facing up the person who threw the die must act out this animals behaviour. Once everyone has had a turn do the same with the emotive die. Both dice can then be thrown together and whichever animal and emotion lands facing up the person who threw the die must act out the emotive animal, for example a scared tiger, an angry monkey, a confused elephant.
Card/paper and glue/sellotape for animal and emotive dice, card/paper for animal and emotive flash cards.
+ Imaginary Energy Ball
Service users must use their imagination and creativity to pass an imaginary energy ball around the circle. For example, service users might mime throwing, kicking or juggling the imaginary ball when passing it to one another.
Enthusiasm and Ideas! The more creative you are the better!!
Art therapy is the application of the creative process of art making, whether it be painting, colouring or sculpting to improve and enhance mental and emotional well-being. Art provides individuals with escapism a medium to express emotions and aspects of their personality non-verbally. Self-help art therapy, such as colouring books, have recently become very popular, and are a positive example of how art and creativity can benefit mental well-being.
How can we use art as a medium to provide a positive mental health experience to service users?
+ Self-portrait Bag
Provide service users with paper bags, pencils, pens, paint, glue, glitter, feathers and material. Service users are to create a self-portrait of themselves on the outside of the paper bag. Provide service users with colourful items, pictures of foods, places and other pictures from magazines to place inside the bag to represent how the service users feel on the inside.
Paper bags, pencils, pens, paint, glue, glitter, feathers, material and magazines.
+ Sword and Shield Activity
Pre-prepare worksheets with outlines of swords and shields on them. Make sure there is one for all who wish to participate. Service users must write or draw what makes them happy and protects them on the shield. Once completed, service users must write or draw things they dislike or wish to avoid on the sword.
Paper, pens, pencils.
Emotional Intelligence and Coping
Emotional intelligence encompasses the ability to understand and regulate one’s feelings; it enables individuals to interact with one another with empathy and with respect for how another person may feel. In being able to identify our emotions, we may also be able to understand the source of that emotion - a skill that can be used when coping. That is why some people might eat their favourite meal or go for a jog when they feel negative emotions to feel more positive emotions.
How can we improve emotional intelligence using engaging and fun activities to provide a positive mental health experience?
+ Auditory Perception of Emotions.
Service users will be given 5 cards of 5 emotions (happy, sad, surprised, angry, scared) and required to listen attentively to the recordings of people speaking in different languages to determine the speaker's current emotion. Service users must then hold up the emotion card which they think best resembles the type of emotion used in that conversation clip.
Speaker, emotional language clips, recordings of conversations, emotive flash cards.
+ Cartoon Emotion Scenario
Service users will be presented with a various picture sequences which will depict emotive events or scenarios. Service users must determine the most applicable emotion for the character in the picture sequence. Three possible answers will be available to choose from.
This activity will exercise the service users’ ability to understand and showcase empathy and sympathy.
Picture sequences and emotive flashcards to be made before the session.
+ Emotional Transition
Service users will be presented with an illustrated emotional spectrum. For example happy to sad. Service users must then choose from an array of illustrated events, behaviors and objects that could possibly cause the transition between these emotions.
This enables service users to understand and acknowledge methods, practices and objects that can possibly be used to increase mood elevation and to avoid negative emotional states. For example, pictures of hobbies such as flying kites, interacting with others, and eating favorite foods.
Emotional spectrum and flash cards demonstrating the illustrated events, behaviors and objects made before the start of the session.
Sensory Stimulation and Creativity
Our senses enable us to experience the world around us and derive useful information about smell, taste and touch. Information collected from our senses pass to the Limbic System which plays a major role in controlling mood, emotion and behaviour. Creating something with your hands or as a team fosters satisfaction and pride; psychological benefits also include increased self-esteem from feeling productive and mood elevation.
How can we incorporate sensory stimulation and creativity in our sessions to provide a positive mental health experience?
+ Giant group paintings and murals
Making a mural of a jungle in which the basic outline is already stenciled and the service users will pick colours, fabrics they want to decorate it with.
Felt, fabrics, tissue paper, glue, pens, pencils and large paper.
+ Sensory Box
Place various items in a box hidden from service users. The aim of the activity is for the service users to reach into the box with their none drawing hand and feel the various items placed in the box. With their drawing hand service users must draw what they think the item is just from touch.
Cardboard box, felt, pencils, paper and various objects; pens, dolls, pasta, small cars etc...
+ Shaving Foam
Cover a tray or plastic plate with shaving foam and make shapes/numbers etc. with fingers. Why not add a dash of colour by adding food colouring or different coloured paints!
Shaving foam, Plastic tray, paint/food colouring.
+ Rainbow Rice
Paint the rice and when dry play with the texture and/ or put in balloons to shake.
Dry rice, paint, paint brushes, balloons.
+ Play Dough
One cup of flour and a couple of squirts of dish soap (fairy liquid). Mix together until the desired consistency is achieved.
Flour, dish soap, drop of food colouring (optional).
+ Sensory Bottles
Fill water bottles with water and various small and coloured objects so that individuals can play/ observe.
Water bottles E.g. rubber bands, pom poms, beads, marbles, sand, oil, lentils, glitter etc.
+ Sensory Texture Boards
Cut and stick various fabrics on paper for different textures to create sensory texture boards.
Various fabrics for different textures scissors, glue, cardboard/ paper
+ Sensory Bags
Make sparkle squishy bags by filling ziplock bags with coloured water, body wash and plastic confetti.
Zip lock bags Food colouring, water, plastic, coloured confetti, 1 squirt of body wash.
Teamwork and Socialisation
Activities that require teamwork are regularly incorporated into group work as a method of improving socialisation and focusing on pro-social behaviours. Activities which incorporate teamwork can act as great “icebreakers” before the start of any session!
How can we use team activities to improve socialisation between service users?
+ Hoop Transfer
Have the group form a circle holding hands. The team task is to pass the hula hoop around the circle in a specified direction until it returns to the starting point. Another way to play is to use two hoops and have them go around the circle in opposite directions. Service users might find holding hands uncomfortable, if so a small piece of string can be held between 2 people.
Hula Hoop, string (Top Tip! Pipe cleaners can also be joined together to make a large hoop!).
+ Pipeline Ball Transfer
Prior to the session cut off the ends of empty water bottles to create a hollow cylinder. Hand one to each service user. The aim of the activity is to transfer the ball from start to finish without it touching the floor. To ensure the ball doesn't hit the floor once the ball has passed through a persons hollow tube they must to run to the front of the que ready for the ball to pass through again. This action will have to be repeated for each individual until the ball reaches the finish point.
A ball and water bottles. Toilet roll tubes can also be used to replace the water bottles.
+ Elastic Tower Cup
Prior to the session tie four pieces of string to an elastic band. As you pull on each piece of string the elastic band will stretch which will enable you to place it over the cup and, as you release the tension, the band will contract tightening itself over the cup. Hand each person one piece of string which is attached to the elastic band. The aim of the activity is to work together as a team to build the tallest tower by picking up each cup using the elastic and string.
Plastic cups, elastic bands and string.
Music and Creativity
For many, music is an important part of everyday life; people use music to motivate themselves at the gym or to occupy themselves whilst doing their laundry or having a shower. Music is linked to mood and can make us feel happy, sad, energetic or relaxed. The use of music to enhance mood has proved beneficial when treating individuals with autism, depression and dementia.
How can we use music to create a positive mental health experience for service users?
+ Instrument Making
Instruments such as maracas and guitars can be made using tissue boxes and elastic bands and empty bottles with pasta inside. Drums can also be made by stretching balloons over tin cans and using pencils as drumsticks.
Service users will show their instruments to the rest of the group and give a demonstration of the sound it makes. Service users will then create a beat for other service users in the group to imitate.
Service users can be put into groups and create a song by each playing a different rhythm or sound using their instruments.
Lentils/ beads (any small objects), water bottles, balloons, elastic bands, tissue boxes.
+ Descriptive Music Activity
Present a picture of a beach scene and ask service users to create music and sounds that represent that scene by clapping their hands, using their voice or stamping their feet.
Small instruments if you have them, pictures/drawing of different scenes.
+ Beat Imitation
In a circle, use non-verbal communication to get service users to create a simple beat by clapping their hands (such as, the beginning of the song “We Will Rock You” by Queen).
Invite other service users to add to that beat by clapping, clicking their fingers, whistling or tapping their feet on the floor. Invite service users to use their voices as well to create acappella music to add to the beat. This aids teamwork and sensory auditory processing.
Enthusiasm and creativity.
Visual Perception and Spatial Intelligence
Visual perception is the ability to interpret visual information from our surroundings to comprehend a picture. Aspects that could influence this are lighting, colour and distance. Whereas, spatial intelligence is the ability to visualise the world in the mind’s eye as three-dimensional.
How can we plan a session that focuses on improving spatial intelligence and visual perception whilst providing a positive mental health experience?
+ Optical Illusions
Provide four optical illusions to service users in four, small groups, ask them to record their interpretation in secret and then reveal their answers. For example, the colour of squares A and B is actually the same. Are they different? Show each other.
Research and create a variety of optical illusions before your session.
+ Playing Chess
Thinking a few steps ahead is always a good strategy when playing chess. However, in order to do this, you must visualize the changing composition of the board, step by step, without moving a single chess piece. Generating and retaining multiple spatial combinations in your mind at once takes a lot of practice, but is a great skill when needing to compare several options.
Small travel chess set.
Numbers and Logical Intelligence
Mathematics is understood universally and affects aspects of everyday life, such as budgeting for a weekly shop or working out the percentage of tax added to a bill at a restaurant. Gardner’s Theory of Intelligence theorised that mathematics and logical intelligence are linked; describing this type of intelligence as the ability to reason, apply logic and use of critical thinking. Practising this type of intelligence through activities such as Sudoku provides escapism and has been accredited by the Alzheimer’s Association as a preventative measure to the disease.
How can we use mathematics and logical intelligence to create a fun, positive mental health experience for service users?
+ Giant Human Sudoku
Use masking tape/string to make large squares on the floor. Provide service users with paper with numbers 1 to 4 on them. There are 4 rows, every row must contain the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4. There may not be any duplicate numbers in any row. In other words, there can not be any rows that are identical. Progression here could be increasing the number of rows and boxes up to nine. Give an example of what is required so the service used understand the instructions. Consider doing this activity on paper first and then progress onto human sudoku.
Masking tape/string for the grid, paper cut outs of numbers.
+ Missing Equations
Service users will be provided with number digits and maths symbol cutouts. These cut outs will be used to make an equation. Each equation will either be in the wrong order or have missing symbols or digits. Service users will need to rearrange or select the appropriate missing symbol/digit in order to complete the equation.
Cutouts of various number digits and maths symbols.
Service users will be given a target number as well as different numbers and symbols. Service users will need to construct an equation with the numbers and symbols provided that equals the target number.
Paper, pencils (calculator to check the answers).
Service users will be given a sequence of shapes. Each sequence will have missing sections. Service users will need to select the appropriate shapes in order to complete the logical sequence.
Sequences can either be drawn on paper before the start of the session and service users then draw the next set of sequences, or sequences can made by various shapes and numbers which have been cut out prior to the session.
Thought Process and Decision Making
Decisions happen all day everyday. Sometimes these are well-thought out decisions, however often we do so without conscious thought. Decision making is the process of making choices by identifying a decision, gathering information and assessing alternative solutions. Having a step-by-step decision making process can help individuals make a more conscious, thoughtful decision.
How can we use this information to help service users in their abilities to make decisions?
+ Human Connect Four
Use string/ribbon to make a grid shape on the floor. Make circle disks out of card/paper, ensure you have two different colours of disks for each team. Split the group into two teams and hand each team member the two separate coloured disks.
The first team to get four colored checkers in a row either horizontally, vertically or diagonally on the grid wins.
Ribbon/string, card/paper for disks, two different colours for the teams.
+ Forwards and Backwards JUMP!
Service users and volunteers are to stand in three equal lines whilst a service user or volunteer shouts the command "Right," "Left," "Backwards," or "Forwards." When this is done, the service users in the lines must jump in unison to the commands being shouted.
When the person in the front raises their hand, the service users and volunteers in the lines must jump in the opposite direction to the command given.
Critical Thinking and Construction
What characterizes the ideal critical thinker? Within the critical thinking movement, it is sometimes suggested that the ideal critical thinker is a “Constructivist Knower” who integrates objective and critical ways of knowing with subjective and creative ways of action. Individuals can integrate rational and emotive thought in a way that permits common standards of logic.
So how can we implement critical thinking with construction?
When designing a mechanism such as a bridge service users must visualise its concept. The transferal/supporting of an object. They must come to an agreement on how best to design the bridge. They must apply their own knowledge but also listen to others and through evaluation must to assess the validity of each other's arguments. Which design is going to be the most effective? They must be able to filter all relevant information generated by discussion, observation and experience to come to a conclusion and then reflect on their finished product.
+ Critical Bridge Construction
The objective is to design a bridge able to withstand the most weight. Prior to the lesson design 5 bridges on paper. Split the service into teams and show designs to service users. Service users must discuss and choose which design they feel would withstand the most weight. Once they have finished discussing, service users must construct the bridge from lollipop sticks and tape. Once finished the bridge will be tested to see which teams' bridge can withstand the most weight.
Lollipop sticks, sellotape and bridge designs.
Knowledge Sharing and Empowerment
There is a meaningful link between sharing knowledge and feelings of empowerment in adults. When given the opportunity to discuss knowledge with another person, the benefits include increased creativity, confidence and improved organisation memory for topics discussed. By giving service users the opportunity to share their knowledge with volunteers, they will have improved self-affirmations which can improve ability to cope with stress or threats made to one’s view of the self.
How can we use activities where volunteers and service users share knowledge of topics to empower service users and create a positive mental health experience?
+ Culture Icebreaker Activity
Show service users a large world map. Give all service users and volunteers a sticker to stick on the place where they are from on the map. Volunteers will prepare a short dance piece from their culture - such as Irish or Scottish dancing - and teach service users a simple routine to music.
Once this is completed, volunteers will play local music and invite service users to teach them dance from their culture to volunteers.
Different types of cultural music.