Slough’s young people to begin their adventure in beekeeping

Slough’s young people to begin their adventure in beekeeping

Today marks a significant occasion, long-awaited and carefully prepared for! A group of young people from Slough are embarking on a journey to Ley Hill Cricket Club, eager to begin their education in the art of beekeeping.

But how did we reach this point? The British Science Association (BSA), along with the University of Reading and Slough CVS, extended invitations to community groups and charities in Slough and Reading. These groups primarily serve communities that are either new to research or typically underrepresented in such endeavours, inviting them to participate in a Community Led Research Pilot.

Initial discussions between the young volunteers of Together As One (Aik Saath) and representatives from the University of Reading and SCVS revealed a strong interest among the young people in the natural world and environmental issues. Some were concerned about climate change, while others were eager to contribute more to environmental causes.

Throughout the summer of 2023, the young volunteers participated in a diverse array of environmental activities, including upcycling clothing, canal cleaning, and learning about bat conservation and beekeeping. Among these activities, the beekeeping session emerged as a favourite among the young people. Their feedback indicated a strong enjoyment of all sessions, with beekeeping being the preferred pursuit to carry forward.

So, what came next? The university recognized the value of the young people’s journey, and due to the success of the initial exploratory projects, a decision was made to delve deeper. It became apparent from the outset that engagement in environmental activities could benefit the young people, and beekeeping was a subject they wished to explore further.

After successfully reapplying to the BSA, the project was selected to explore the impact of beekeeping on young people’s mental health. The search began for a beekeeping club or society willing to offer support. Several societies were contacted, and one, Chalfonts Beekeepers’ Society, enthusiastically offered their assistance. Their President, Sarah Peterson, has been supportive from the outset, and the society has generously collaborated to develop a training program for the young people.

While bees play a vital role in humanity’s survival, they aren’t always viewed positively. Securing accessible land willing to host a hive posed challenges. However, a pocket park next to Cocksherd Woods in Britwell has been identified as the ideal site. The volunteer-led site has everything a hive might need, including security, level surfaces and access to water via a pond (not essential but most welcome). Moreover, this initiative has the potential to contribute to broader initiatives aimed at making Slough more hospitable to wildlife, facilitated by the newly established Green Slough Community Development Trust.

Meanwhile, the university introduced the project team to Prof. Ciara McCabe, a renowned academic in mental health research, and her doctoral student, Sena Demir Kassem. They lead the research aspect of the project, focusing on mental health. Additionally, the project team is gaining valuable insights from them into the research process undertaken by universities and how to collaborate effectively with higher education institutions.

Please check back to follow our journey!

How SEND can affect mental health

How SEND can affect mental health

In this SEND Youth Forum session, the young people discussed mental health. The discussion started around why young people with SEND may be more likely to have mental health challenges than their peers and how mental health and SEND intersect. The young people shared a range of responses from some of their personal experiences to what their peers have felt.

How we feel…

Low self-esteem and low self-confidence were recognised by the group as some of the more common experiences that a young person may have because of a negative view of themselves and their diagnosis. Some young people with SEND have negative feelings linked to feeling ‘different’ or having different needs to their peers. As a result the young people can feel socially excluded and can have challenges building and maintaining friendships. This may cause them to feel left out and can result in  feelings of depression and anxiety.

Masking

Many young people may use masking as a coping strategy in their day-to-day life such as at school or in college. Masking is when someone disguises parts of their character to fit in better, this can include mimicking others. This can have a harmful effect on mental health as it is often exhausting and can result in feeling ‘burnt out’.

Feeling overwhelmed

Another theme that was highlighted was feeling overwhelmed in school by both academic pressures and behavioural expectations. There are instances of young people feeling as if they are expected to work at a standard that they feel is unattainable and when the young people internalise these pressures it negatively impacts them. Particularly when they feel the school or college is not providing them with accommodations that can help them feel like these goals are in reach so they feel more motivated to work towards them.

Furthermore, both young people and parents have emphasised that some young people do not have positive relationships with school staff and that they sometimes feel labelled by their teachers. When a young person is called out by staff or asked to leave the classroom repeatedly they can start to feel excluded from their peers. Particularly when a young person spends less time in the classroom due to internal/ external exclusions or a reduced timetable this can amplify the feelings of social exclusion and feeling left out. This results in them experiencing feelings of social anxiety and nervousness when they re-join the class.

Each child with SEND has a unique and distinct experience and it is important to consider how their diagnosis can influence their mental health and how they are supported to overcome some of these challenges in different environments.

Need support?

If you are concerned about your mental health or the mental health of another person, there is a useful list of services here.

If you are interested to learn more about the lived experiences of young people with SEND in Slough please contact Jovi 07709525687 or [email protected] .