How did the Culture of the Heart begin and what does it aim to do?

The Culture of the Heart is a series of picture books and lesson plans, activities and activations for schools, that help children develop their understanding of self and other’s. It builds and supports safe and relational learning communities, healthy mental habits and emotional literacy.

The Culture of the Heart began as artist run workshops in schools in 2016. Staff saw such impact of the content on the children I was asked to write down the lesson plans with an SLE literacy lead. The Culture of the Heart began to grow.

At that point, the research became deeply significant. Books, lectures, podcasts, the latest psychology, emotional intelligence, neuroscience, childhood development, healthy leadership and community research was consumed. Rabbit hole deep-dives on culture building, well-being studies and counselling techniques and strategies. Every book, lecture, podcast, tedtalk, around well-being and mental health that I could find. The more I researched, the more I recognised that if we really want to support our children we have to address the deeper issues within our communities – the beliefs and values that make us tick, the cultural issues. The research continues to date, now including a course in the neuroscience of change.

Science has confirmed my understanding and every piece of research I consume seems to always converge on the fact that we are emotionally, mentally and physiologically hard wired for relationship. From Brené Brown, Stephen Covey, Dan Goleman, Dan Seigal, Amanda Blake, Richard Boyatzis, Alan Fogel, Jim Oford, to name just a few – psychologists, educators, sociologists, cardiologists and coaches. All of the research seems to converge on this fact; our relationships effect EVERY area of our wellbeing. 

The research has been a creative process with lesson plans and activities being built and designed around the research. It is a work of passion and hope. Passion, because now more than ever our children need support to understand the foundations of healthy relationships and emotional and mental stability. The problems we are facing as a community, as a society are all too prevalent. The stats on children’s mental health are scary and our communities need support. Primary schools are perfectly positioned to be a part of this support and long term, ongoing preventative measure for the mental and emotional wellbeing for the children they serve. The hope is that we can create relationally safe learning community culture, where we treat each other with dignity and respect and children feel valued and safe. 

The content has been more formally trialled across a wide range of primary schools, which began in 2017 with dedicated workshops in schools. The content grew and became a full resource in 2018, and was published as a limited edition in 2019 – serving a small group of schools. After the first year’s trial, a parent wrote to one of the head teachers to thank the school for using the material (and when a parent writes in, you really take notice). I asked if I could interview the family;

I asked the parent why did you write in? She said;

“Well ask my daughter”.

I turned my attention to the seven year old.

“What happened in your class when you used The Culture of the Heart?”

The seven year old replied “Even Amelia got kind*”.

When I asked the class teacher about Amelia I found out that she was from very difficult family circumstances and she had been a renown bully. Over the course of the year she changed; her understanding of the vocabulary, character attribute, how she wanted to be treated and how she should treat other’s. She learnt EQ skills and how to develop relationships. By the end of the year (and using the drip-fed resources) Amelia had changed her behaviour and was now accepted and liked in her class. This is not an isolated incident. When staff invest time in the content, they see change in their classrooms.

The lesson plans are not a quick fix. The content is built to create sustainable and lasting change. This is about addressing unseen beliefs and value systems, sometimes addressing pain and developing resilience. The content supports creating safe and relational learning communities.

The Culture of the Heart is based on these principals;

  •  Every life has intrinsic worth and is inherently good.
  •  We are hard wired for community – for relationship.
  •  We learn best when we feel safe relationally and emotionally.
  •  We are powerful over our choices.
  •  Responsibility breathes liberty.

Our hope is that Culture of the Heart will support your already existing plans and support you and your staff to be really intentional about the culture you create in your school. A culture where children are empowered to connect in healthy ways, to grow and build community – to know they are valuable and worthy of love, and so are their peers.

Culture of the Heart embraces our children with picture books, teaching resources and training that build a value system that helps children and staff thrive. Culture of the Heart reminds the children that every life has worth, that we all have value.

 You can find ‘Words and Your Heart’ and ‘Wonderful You’ in bookshops and on the internet. The third picture book in the series will be formally published in 2022. The schools content that has developed alongside the picture books keeps growing.

(*Amelia’s real name was changed.)

Find out more about becoming a Culture of the Heart school…


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