Happiness lessons during 2nd period TU Braunschweig pilot project starts after the autumn holidays at Braunschweig primary schools
Not only maths, German and physical education: “happiness lessons” will soon be on the timetable in 16 Braunschweig primary schools. This somewhat different school subject is made possible by the GlüGS project, which Tobias Rahm from the Institute of Educational Psychology at Technische Universität Braunschweig set up together with the book author Carina Mathes. Student teachers will teach the “happiness lessons” in schools from November.
After Tobias Rahm already developed a course to increase well-being for teachers for his dissertation project, it is now the school pupils’ turn. “If we want a world with less depression and stress and instead with more compassion, appreciation and mental health, our schools are probably the best place to start,” explains the psychologist. “Findings from the field of positive psychology suggest that people with high levels of well-being are more creative and productive, better at solving problems, have stronger immune systems and greater resilience to mental stress, among other things.” Happy people even live longer, according to Rahm. In addition, the individual experience of happiness can be specifically improved through training.
From emotions to health
There are already many projects around the world that teach “happiness skills” in schools in one way or another. The example of Geelong Grammar School in Australia is often cited as a showcase project in positive education. Here, students from preschool to senior high school have two lessons each week that focus on emotions, engagement, relationships, sense of purpose, goal achievement and health. In New Delhi, India, one million children have one hour of happiness classes every day.
In Germany, too, there are various projects that focus on knowledge and skills for a happy and prosperous life. One of them is the two books “Curriculum Schulfach Glückskompetenz” by the author Carina Mathes. In many school lessons and projects, the trained speech therapist has developed an easy-to-use curriculum with background information, inspiring stories, parent information, worksheets and craft instructions.
Happiness as a school subject in teacher training
Now Tobias Rahm and Carina Mathes want to integrate the programme into teacher training and evaluate its effects scientifically. Well-equipped with lesson plans and teaching materials, the 35 prospective teachers will go in pairs to one of the 16 participating primary schools in Braunschweig from November 2022 to January 2023 and work together with the class teacher in the classroom.
The lessons will deal with questions such as: What feelings are there? Which ones are particularly valuable? How can we have more of them? Based on the story “Der gelbe Rucksack” (The Yellow Backpack), the children collect personal beautiful moments, which they later write on the class backpack made of cardboard. In the lesson on gratitude, the pupils send each other postcards with compliments. Other topics are helpfulness, emotional contagion, being aware of oneself, changing perspectives as well as relaxation and mindfulness, all of which are taught in a playful and creative way with stories, in dialogue with the students and each other and in small exercises. Families are also involved through weekly information letters with suggestions of things to do at home.
Kick-off event at North Campus
There were no problems finding interested schools. “I asked the Regional Office for Schools and Education and very quickly got the offer to promote the project at the meeting for primary school headmasters in Braunschweig,” Tobias Rahm reports.
On 7 October, the kick-off event took place at the North Campus. After the autumn holidays, the weekly happiness lessons will begin for a good 300 pupils until the end of the school term. A second round is planned for the second half of the school year. Tobias Rahm is already looking forward to the research results and repeats a question posed by the psychology professor and founding father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman: “What do we want for our children? Very few answer with ‘being able to do arithmetic’ or ‘good spelling’, but with terms like happiness and contentment.”
Further Information: www.tu-braunschweig.de/gluecksforschung