This school year, 2021/’22 in St. Peter’s N.S. we decided to apply and try to earn an Amber Flag for the school. Amber Flag is an initiative run by Pieta House to promote positive mental health in our communities. We all agree St. Peter’s N.S. is a great community to be part of and we aim to make it even better as we work for the flag.
First job was to form our Amber Flag Committee under the guidance of Ms. Flynn and Karen, one of our SNAs. There was lots of interest and excitement about the flag throughout the school and our Amber Flag Team has members right up through the classes. We are Mia, Tim, Abigail, Hannah, Andrew, Matilda and William.
We had a great brainstorming session at the beginning of the year and came up with lots of great ideas which we have been working on ever since. We meet up every month to review how the work is coming along and add any more ideas we have about how to promote positive mental health in our little school.
The Amber Flag Committee busily set out looking for ways to make the school a more caring, happy place, where we all look out for each other.
We decided placing a Buddy Bench in the yard was a nice way to do this. Karen, from the committee drove to a different county and very kindly found the beautiful bench for us. It has been sitting proudly outside the Junior Room ever since, getting loads of use each break time. Ms. Flynn explained to us how important is to promote caring and friendship in our school, to make it a nicer place for us all. The bench is a perfect way to spend a few minutes together, just having a quiet chat and in doing so, promoting the simple things in friendship. The younger children can take a few minutes out from playtime in the yard, and sit together with a friend. It is in constant use at break times and Junior and Senior Infants love having somewhere special to hang out!
We’re REALLY lucky in St. Peter’s as later in the year we also managed to get a second Buddy Bench, this time for the senior part of the play ground! We actually rediscovered a beautiful bench that a past pupil donated a few years ago and decided this was perfect for the senior yard. A very kind parent repainted it for is and it now gets just as much use as the bench in the Junior Yard. It’s a cool place to be able to just sit with friends and discuss the day.
We discussed in one of our early Amber Flag meetings how music always cheers us up if we’re feeling a little sad, and how dancing is a great way to get rid of any bad feelings or grumpiness. We put our heads together and all agreed we should try to dance more often. So, we came up with the idea of having a weekly disco for everyone in the school.
On Friday mornings, at 8.50, before we get stuck into the day’s work, we all go outside into the yard and dance for 10 minutes! We have a speaker that plays loud music all over the yard, so that even if teacher forgets about the dancethon, we hear it going on outside and run out to join in. It’s great fun and a really good way to shake off the early morning cobwebs.
Even during the winter dancing outside in the early morning was a handy way to warm us up. We’ve also discovered Ms. McGovern’s secret talent. She’s a great DJ and plays really cool songs for us each week!
The first week in February, the Amber Flag Committee ran a Poster of Positivity blitz.
Every child in the school made a poster, promoting positive mental health and general positivity. Everybody got really involved in this and channelling their inner da Vinci, drew great posters.
Ms. Flynn and Karen spend ages one afternoon, hanging these up in the Amber Flag Corner in the LS room. They look fab and it really brightens up anybody’s day to have a look at the posters and remind us all of what a great, inclusive place St. Peter’s N.S. is.
Random Acts of Kindness
During our initial brainstorming session, the Amber Flag Committee decided that the week of Valentine’s Day would be perfect for showing we care for each other and promoting positive mental health. Lots of ideas were discussed and we finally agreed that a week of Random Acts of Kindness would be ideal to highlight what the Amber Flag is all about.
The whole school got involved again, with great enthusiasm. All we had to was a random act of kindness for someone else. The children weren’t looking for thanks or praise, just quiet appreciation. So, when an act was done, the child it was done for, or someone who noticed it being done wrote it on a little notelet and posted it into a special Random Acts of Kindness box outside the LS room. It was important that the children knew they could post the Act anonymously.
On the Thursday of that week, Ms Flynn and Karen set about making a collage on a big sheet of red paper, in the shape of a heart. All the random acts were stuck on the heart, so we have another piece of feel-good art to decorate our school and remind us what the Amber Flag is about. It looks great and is so lovely to read about all the kindness in our little school.
Walk in the Park
On Thursday 27th March, after months of planning by Ms. Flynn and Karen we had our Amber Flag shared fundraiser for Pieta House/ St. Peter’s N.S. It happened to be National Confidence Day as well so we ended up having loads of fun at school that day! We called our fundraiser It’s a Walk in the Park. Together the whole school walked around the park opposite the school twice, and with all our little, and not so little steps added together would have reached the top of Croagh Patrick! It showed that when we come together we can achieve great things and that life is much easier – it’s a walk in the park, when we have friends and lots of people to watch out for us.
We had a little rest after the walk and then exercised our lungs by singing our specially chosen song for Amber Flag. None of us had heard of the song before but Ms. Flynn tells us she remembers it from when she was little…. It must have been a long time ago because the song sounds really old! We all stood out in the yard and with the help of Ms. McGovern as DJ again, we sang Don’t Worry, Be Happy at the top of our voices.
After that, Ms Flynn and Karen were able to give out the buddy bags. There was one for each child in the school and they’re really nice. Everybody in the school had painted and varnished a stone in bright colours and this friendship stone was put in a little net bag, along with a heart shaped affirmation ( a positive saying like “I think you’re great” laminated on a little piece of red card), a friendship bracelet (made from brightly coloured wool, which 5th + 6th class helped Ms Flynn finish plaiting during the week!) and a small chocolate. It was such nice idea and loads of us are still wearing our friendship bracelets.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, in the afternoon we all got to watch special virtual show for National Confidence Day. It was called I believe in Me and had messages about building confidence from loads of different famous people. It was a lot of fun and certainly different to what we normally do on a Thursday. Then, we had one final surprise before home time. We all got to tuck in to some yummy pizza that was specially delivered to the school for us. It was delicious and we were extra hungry after all the activities earlier in the day. Thank you Ms Blennerhassett and Linda for getting the pizza!
It was a brilliant day, enjoyed by everyone. It was topped off nicely by a special message from An Taoiseach that we were to get no homework, so we all went home very, very happy.
After all our hard work, we're hoping to complete our application for the Amber flag pretty soon and send it in to Pieta House. Then, we'll have to wait nervously until we hear back if we've successfully earned the flag for our school. We'll all be keeping our fingers crossed. We'll let you know when we hear any news about it. It's been really good fun being part of the Amber Flag committee this year and even if we don't earn the flag this time (it is only our first time trying!), we're all very proud of the good work we've done and the positivity we've brought to St.Peter's N.S.
We had one final Amber Flag treat here in St. Peter’s at the start of June before the application for the flag was made. A lady called Una Curran came to the school to spend the whole day teaching us about positive mental health and mindfulness. She has her own website and was the perfect person to show us how our emotional and mental health are so important.
Each class had a separate session with her in the Oak Centre, where she had lovely relaxing music playing when we got there. We all had to sit in a semi-circle on the ground and she taught us about how to focus on our breathing and let go of any negative thoughts, or things that might be worrying us. We got to lie flat on the ground, very still and just listen as she read us a story.
Then came the best part… We got to pair up with a friend and take turns at massaging their back as Una told us what to do. She demonstrated how it’s done on a big teddy bear in the middle of the semi circle. It looked funny but was a great idea because we all quickly figured out how to do it. It was so lovely and relaxing that some of us nearly fell asleep!
The mindfulness day really was the perfect way to end off a lovely year of Amber Flag activities. I hope we keep up the weekly dancethon though. It’s such fun and it’d a pity to waste Ms. Govern’s talent as a DJ!
Amber Flag Award
After all our hard work during the year we made our application for the Amber Flag and waited nervously to hear back. Finally, in the second week in June we got a lovely letter from Pieta House, congratulating us on the great effort made over the year and awarding St. Peter’s N.S. our first Amber Flag.
We’re so proud to have been part of such a great initiative and to have been successful on our first attempt. We couldn’t have done it without the help and positive attitude of everybody in our school. When out flag is flying outside the school everyone who passes by will know what a fantastic place St. Peter’s N.S. is. So, from all the committee – Mia, Tim, Abigail, Hannah, Andrew, Matilda, William, Karen and Ms. Flynn a huge big THANK YOU to everyone who helped us along the way.