Building a healthy, happy city is a key strand of our city’s vision, and we are all too aware that lockdown has had an impact on the wellbeing of many residents across our community due to isolation and loneliness.
Mill Hill Nursery, like many educational settings, saw technology take on a prominent role for children during lockdown as a means of communicating across an educational setting and also with friends and family. The school identified that children returned to the nursery post lockdown with communication and interaction difficulties and the use of iPad / iPod cameras became another language to share their explorations and interpretations.
Through discussions, Mill Hill Nursery identified an opportunity to leverage the use of technology to support communication and interaction between the children and the community on a greater level.
The team at Mill Hill Nursery were able to harness digital capabilities which encouraged children to share some very moving stories of ways in which they communicated through lockdown. And thanks to the Doxford Community Chest Fund, this project was enabled, and delivery commenced to embed an increased level of digital engagement across the community.
The children demonstrated a high level of resilience and understanding as they talked about their experiences. In particular the children showed empathy as they thought about how lonely and isolating lockdown must have been without contact from family or friends for elderly people in the community.
As a result, opportunities for valuable digital community engagement became evident and children began to experiment with video calls and came up with a plan to make friends with elderly people who may have been feeling lonely.
Children planned video calls, created videos to share and experimented with emails and photos – all with the aim of creating positive digital connections.
The children were able to put their new skills in digital communication into action with a local church group. They carried out regular video call sessions with four couples at a time, and the children sang, performed, shared their videos and played games with the elderly church group. The impact on both groups was humbling with children gaining confidence and showing so much enjoyment, whilst also making progress in their speech, communication and social interactions.
Thomas, aged 4, said, “It was lovely making elderly friends. They were very lonely because they didn’t have family like us. We couldn’t go and visit them to play so we communicated with our digital things. We saw them on the video call and they looked happy all the time”.
The elderly group also commented on the impact the sessions had on them and one retired participant said, “It gave me a reason to get up and get ready on the mornings. We are all far more confident using the video calls. It’s funny when a 4 year old is helping you sort your screen out. The children were a breath of fresh air and had us all laughing and smiling.”
The project will continue during the 2021-22 academic year and the impact that the digital inclusion project has had on wellbeing, emotional resilience, inter-generational communication and enhanced technology skills has been astounding.
Sarah Richards, nursery teacher at Mill Hill Nursery School, said: “When the children returned to the nursery post-lockdown, it was fascinating to learn how they were communicating during the pandemic, and the role that technology had played in connecting them to family and friends.
“The use of technology became second nature to them, and we felt enthused to use these digital platforms to make a difference across our community. The children showed such confidence – setting up video calls themselves and planning what they were going to talk about, including games, songs, drawings and more – and they were so proud to be able to help the elderly people.
“The project had an immeasurable impact on the wellbeing of both parties – breaking down barriers and building emotional resilience, as well as digital communication skills. We really demonstrated how the digital aspect of learning is integrated in everyday life and is giving people across generations, from nursery age to retirement, another tool and a new language to communicate with.
“We are now planning a wellbeing section of our website to facilitate a video blog, which will promote wellbeing as a core part of our ethos and include the children’s voice as they continue to extend their digital skills.”