Can you give us some background information about who you are and what you do?
We are a secondary school in Aalst. Our teaching activities mainly focus on preparation for higher education. After a number of turbulent school years (the pandemic, the digitalization that is going as swift as an arrow, climate change, educational reform…) we notice that more and more students are struggling with anxiety issues or other mental consequences of these sometimes unsteady times. We have always put the care of our students first, so this has now gained traction.
Did you already have experience with breathing exercises or similar techniques?
In the past, we already worked with breathing exercises and apps that we made the students use so that they could calm down.
Why did you start working with moonbird?
We are not experts in meditation or breathing techniques, especially when it comes to the psychology behind them. However, we feel that more and more is being expected of schools to deal with these matters. When we saw an advertisement for moonbird on social media, we thought the device had a lot of potential because it was developed with expertise and especially because it is so subtle to use. Students who regularly experience severe anxiety during class do not often benefit from leaving class because their anxiety just increases. We thought that moonbird could be used specifically by these students. They can subtly pull the device out of their bag when they are overwhelmed by difficult thoughts and emotions.
How exactly do you use moonbird?
Meanwhile, we have three devices. One is regularly lent to students that are in a similar situation that was described in the previous paragraph. We consider this as a trial period after which students can decide if they want to buy a device if they indeed benefit from it. Furthermore, the other two devices are always available in the student guidance offices on our two campuses. Both students and teachers know they are available and that they can always be used when they have a difficult moment. When a student is upset and comes to the student guidance office, we usually use the device so that the student can calm down before engaging in conversation. We also take the devices with us on school trips so they can be used 24/7 when students are struggling. Many of our students have never been on a trip without their parents because of the pandemic, so that causes unrest as well.
Can you tell us more about the effects of the device on students that used it? Are there any specific improvements regarding stress, anxiety, and sleep problems?
Moonbird is now used quite regularly by some of our students. It helps best with panic attacks and hyperventilation. Focusing on breathing by counting or listening to instructions is often too difficult or even very frustrating in those situations. Because of the intuitive function of the device, you don’t have to think. You just need to follow the device which helps the students very quickly to regain a calm breathing pace. There is also no language barrier when using moonbird which is definitely an added value in a very multicultural school.
How did the students respond to the use of moonbird? Has there been positive feedback or reactions from the students themselves? Did they find the guidance helpful?
Students are usually impressed when seeing the device for the first time. They like the fact that the school invests in mental health issues.We have also received this feedback from parents.
Are there specific breathing techniques or exercises that are used with moonbird? If so, which ones and how are they applied?
Depending on the situation, we apply guided meditations and breathing exercises as well.
How did the teachers respond to using moonbird in the classroom? Did they notice any improvement in the concentration or well-being of the students? Have specific adjustments been made in lesson planning to use moonbird effectively?
That is hard to say, given the short-term nature of the systematic use. Besides, three devices for 720 students are also too few to say anything about the impact on all students. Generally, teachers believe that it is very positive that the devices are available and easily encourage students to use them. Whereas there was some doubt whether the devices would actually be used in the beginning, we now notice that they are used almost daily.
Are there any particular challenges that can be encountered when using moonbird?
The biggest struggle for us is obviously the cost because we value equal educational opportunities. We know that there are students who could benefit from using a moonbird but could not afford it. We, as a school, cannot purchase enough devices to provide a loan system for everyone from that target group.
Are there any other aspects of using moonbird at your school that you would like to highlight? Are there any success stories or special cases that have struck you?
We have noticed that moonbirds make a difference, especially for students with anxiety or a lot of stress (e.g. PTSD). By providing moonbirds during class, these students can continue to follow the class, subtly take the device, and focus on breathing for a while. This eliminates the need to stop class, and the symptoms decrease significantly. Of course, moonbird is a tool that can be used, but certainly, in such situations, it should always be an and-and story with other psychological help.
Our experience in a nutshell: moonbird's greatest asset over other techniques is its intuitive operation which eliminates the language barrier, user expertise, and need for instruction.
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