When Mrs Sanchez announced the ‘Big Idea’ earlier this year in February, I was curious to see what initiatives pupils would pitch. The brief was to come up with an innovative, creative and effective solution (that would cost no more than £2,000) to improve pupils’ lives at Mill Hill. Eleven Houses pitched their ideas to a panel in a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style setting last Wednesday evening, each House Team being allocated four minutes to persuade the Dragons to part with the School’s money for their project.
As the event unfolded, it was clear there were two themes to the pupils’ ideas: pupil mental and physical wellbeing, the majority focusing on mental health. Each idea was carefully researched and went into some depth to find a solution to the problems. Some solutions focused on technology, using apps and the School’s Virtual Learning Environment, while others sought to exploit the green spaces of the school environment. There were some truly innovative and original concepts.
I was struck by the clear concern pupils have for the wellbeing of their fellow classmates and how, interestingly, they recognised that there is an increasing need for pupils to spend time with each other, away from the ubiquitous mobile phones. They understood that relaxation and the need to connect with each other was not being fulfilled and it was fascinating to see that many had attributed this to an over-use of screen time and staying indoors. Some of the pitches looked at using the 120 acres of Mill Hill School grounds where pupils can spend quality time, mostly outdoors, in the good company of each other. Two of the pitches looked at how to involve pupils more in school events – one by encouraging sports commentators at school matches, another by starting a school Radio Club to advertise what’s on.
We also learnt how pupils had also recognised the need for hydration and that a lack of drinking water impacted their studies as well as their physical health. Two of the pitches addressed this problem in creatively different ways.
Choosing a winner was not easy. We could have given all the proposals a cheque of £2,000. In the end, we were persuaded that the initiative from Burton Bank House was the most compelling. They had designed a Wellbeing Garden on Mill Hill School grounds where pupils (and staff) can relax and enjoy the company of each other at all times of the day and evening. They had thought through a phased approach to the installation of the garden and the project delighted all Dragons who were unanimous in their choice of the winners. We all very much look forward to the grand opening of the Wellbeing Garden.