Learning Activity 6 Belonging and connection

Activity 6 - Belonging and connection (learning outcome 2.3)

Students will reflect on their experience of feeling part of different groups, and what gives them that sense of belonging or connection. They are invited to consider how they might help others to feel included, accepted and respected at school and in other areas of life.

This is a follow-on activity to activity 2 (who am i). While this activity can be completed with any year group, first-year students may need to be in school for a few weeks before they feel comfortable enough to do this activity.

Think back to activity 2 when we discussed the groups that you feel part of and that you feel connected to such as your family, friends, team, or class. 

What helps you to feel that you are part of these groups, for example - that the people accept you, respect you and include you in whatever the group is doing.

Why do you think it is important that all young people should feel included in groups - feeling included at school, in your class, by your teachers and in your group of friends is very important for your health and wellbeing.

Teacher's notes

The most commonly used definition for ‘School belonging’ describes it as “the extent to which students feel personally accepted, respected, included, and supported by others in the school social environment.” (Goodenow and Grady, 1993).

Feeling a sense of belonging and connection to the school is linked to improved academic outcomes. It is also linked to reduced emotional distress, reduced smoking, reduced alcohol
use, reduced drug use, and reduced likelihood of engaging in early sexual activity.

Teachers should observe and note feedback from students and talk to a student privately and/or inform the student support team of any concerns if a student is isolated or had difficulties establishing a friendship group.

Assessment exercise

Students describe what promotes a sense of belonging in school, at home, and in the wider community, and their own role in creating an inclusive environment. The project may be written, presented visually as a poster, or performed.

Step 2: Feeling included

Divide the class into small groups and distribute the Worksheet – feeling included to each group.

Invite the students to first respond to the questions individually, then discuss the questions with their group and fill out the worksheet together as a group. Take feedback from the group,

Discussion point

What we can do as a class to make sure that everyone feels included

What can we do to make sure that this is a class everyone feels glad to be in?

Download worksheet Feeling included.

Step 3: guided visualisation

Before we can accept, respect, include and support other people, we have to be able to accept, respect and support ourselves.

The following guided visualisation focuses on self-acceptance.

Sitting quietly, I invite you to close your eyes, or if you prefer, bring a soft focus to a point on the wall or floor in front of you.

Feel your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting in your lap, or alternatively put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly so that you can feel yourself breathing.

Notice your breathing, in and out. Relax your shoulders. Feel the air as it touches your nose and feel your belly expand as you breathe in. Breathe in and out several times.

PauseNow, imagine that you are walking along by a stream, at the edge of a forest.

You can feel the sunlight streaming through the trees, gently warming your body and hear the stream flowing gently beside you.

You notice the trees, the flowers along the path. You might hear birds singing. Keep walking until you come to a beautiful, deserted white sandy beach.

You walk along the beach to the water. The water is warm as it laps up on your feet. You sit down on the sand and feel the gentle golden sunlight shining on you, you feel the warmth of the sand
underneath you, as you breathe in the warm air.

Pause: Notice the colours surrounding you, the sounds, the smells. You rest in the peace and warmth, knowing that you are totally accepted and loved just as you are right now.

It doesn’t matter if you feel undeserving or unworthy. It is there regardless. As you are sitting there repeat to yourself:

  •  May I be safe, protected and free from inner and outer warm.
  •  May I be happy and contented.
  •  May I be healthy and whole to whatever degree possible 
  •  May I experience the ease of wellbeing.

Pause, Repeat, Pause

Notice your breathing in and out. Notice your shoulders, your head, your neck, your back, your arms, your legs, your feet. Very slowly, imagine standing up and walking back down the beach.

Walk back through the forest, back to the stream. Notice your breathing, in and out. Listen to the sounds in the room.

Feel your feet flat on the floor, and when you are ready, open your eye.