Meet Cassy Lee, founder of “The Lunchtime Slinky Club.” As a licensed social worker placed within Highland County's Greenfield Middle School, she’s creating a positive place for students to engage. The program, which began with only three referrals, is growing steadily as the students recognize their struggles, seek out help, and share their positive experiences with their friends.
With help from Lee, the school’s seventh graders have formed an informal lunch group where they discuss stressors, learn coping skills, and identify areas where they are struggling and would like to improve. After discussing these topics and engaging in activities such as “feeling/coping basketball”, they take a break and send a giant slinky down the stairs. By opening up about their struggles, the students are learning how to manage stress, avoid impulsivity, and improve conflict resolution, all while boosting their self-esteem.
The activities reach far beyond a slinky though. During their free time, students can drop in and spin a wheel to either win candy or learn about different emotions. There’s also an affirmation tree available to students feeling down, reminding them that they are amazing and deserving of love and respect. Whenever a student demonstrates improved skills, they choose an egg from the tree with a small prize.
These students are not motivated by the allure of getting out of class or winning prizes; but are instead drawn to the program because they have someone who listens to them and offers a safe space. They appreciate the fact that their teachers do not merely teach them; they can talk to them too. They’re embracing counseling and therapy positively – a promising sign that the stigma surrounding mental health is being reduced.
Creating a supportive and safe environment for students to discuss their mental health is crucial. The Lunchtime Slinky Club is a great example of how students can come together to support each other and learn valuable coping skills. The use of the affirmation tree and the small prizes as rewards for utilizing new skills is an innovative approach that effectively motivates and reinforces positive behavior. By promoting counseling and therapy as a positive and beneficial experience, we can help students develop the skills and tools necessary to manage stress and other challenges effectively.
To learn more about Lunchtime Slinky Club or ISBH's school-based programs, reach out to Cassy Lee at [email protected].