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Counselling team creates weather station for help with life’s emotional storms

Students fill out a pink weather report describing the problem and drop it into the secure weather station mailbox.

This year the counsellors at Nanaimo Christian School are making it easier for students to connect with help to deal with life’s big emotional storms. 

Students can fill out a confidential ‘weather report’ form on how they’re feeling and what they need then drop it in the bright pink locked ‘weather station’ mailbox in Building C. One of NCS’ school counsellors, Mrs. Ducklow, regularly checks the mailbox and connects with students who have completed the reports.

Earlier this year Mrs. Ducklow visited each Grade 3-5 classroom to talk to students about the ‘weather station’ concept and delivered several pink weather report forms to the classrooms. She explained what types of problems someone might see a school counsellor for. She used different types of weather to explain different types of emotional problems – which types need caring adult support and which ones kids can handle themselves (i.e. I feel worried all the time and I can't make it stop versus I can't find my indoor shoes). 

Mrs. Ducklow has received a variety of student self-referrals including:

  • Frustration for having to wait for a turn on the swings at recess

  • Sadness at having to tie shoelaces when they prefer velcro

  • Friendship challenges

  • Constant sadness

  • Emotional regulation difficulties

  • The recent loss of a loved one

When a student puts in a weather report, Mrs. Ducklow meets briefly with the student to gather more information but doesn’t provide any therapeutic intervention. She lets them know she’ll  need to talk to their parents. She then contacts parents with the situation/need and parents get to decide if they want NCS counselling services or prefer a different option to support their child. 

What prompted the weather station

At NCS Grade 6-12 students have the ability to self-refer for counselling services through a Google classroom document that goes straight to the NCS counselling team. School counsellors were concerned that intermediate Grade 3-5 students didn’t have access to this referral option due to their tech limitations. 

We wanted to create a system that would allow Grade 3-5 students to ask for help with emotional and mental health needs, says Mrs. Ducklow. We wanted them to learn from an early age that getting help for emotions and mental health realities is normal, helpful, and sometimes necessary. We wanted to reduce the stigma around these themes and increase access to help because we can't always tell by looking at kids how they are coping with life’s challenges.

How is it going? 

“The weather station and weather reports are having a great effect and are so valuable to our kids.”

– Mrs. Van Zyl, elementary school principal

“When one of our Grade 3-5 students was recently asked: ‘If emotions get hard to handle how would you cope?’ The student answered without missing a beat: ‘Put in a weather report.’ Hearing that story was one of the highlights of my year."

– Mrs. Ducklow, NCS school counsellor

What else parents need to know

  • NCS employs therapists with a master’s degree in a counselling-related discipline who are trained to work with children. School counsellors are registered with a provincial or federal regulatory body and follow a professional code of conduct and ethical guidelines.

  • NCS students under age 11 require parental permission to see the school counsellor unless an immediate safety risk has been identified (see details in student handbook). 

  • The mandate of NCS counsellors is to support students with emotional and mental health realities that impact their ability to successfully function in the school setting or enjoy the school experience. Therapists provide short-term support.

  • Some student self-referrals are appropriate for school counselling services. Other times, a referral to another service or resource is a better fit. 

  • Kids who self-refer for problems that do not fit the mandate receive a letter from the school counsellor with directions to get support for their need from teaching staff, administrators, or another resource. For example, Mrs. Ducklow sent a letter to a student who was really sad his ball was on the roof and desperately wanted it back to find the facilities manager and ask for help. 

  • All kids are ALWAYS encouraged to talk to their parents about the challenges they are facing and asking for help with. All students who self-refer get acknowledged for their courage and supported as appropriate and are triaged according to severity of need.

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