A group of Performing Arts students from the University of Sunderland have been using their creative talents to inspire primary school pupils to look after their physical and mental health.

The Year 3 students have spent the last two months touring local primary schools as part of the HealthyBods project, putting on interactive performances covering areas such as healthy eating, getting enough sleep, recognising different emotions and the importance of being inclusive.

Students Use Performance Skills to Boost Children’s Health and Wellbeing
Grangetown Primary School pupils

By using dance, poetry, original music and narration, the students were able to engage Key Stage 1 children (aged five to seven years) with these important issues in a fun and memorable way.

Performing Arts student Reece Ellard, 20, said: “The children have all enjoyed it, everyone has been joining in, having fun and getting up and smiling.

“We try and show kids more about healthier eating, good hygiene and generally the way to stay healthy throughout your entire life.

“And we hope they take it on board, see all the fun activities we do and just use that in life.”

Students Use Performance Skills to Boost Children’s Health
Students performing HealthyBods at Grangetown Primary School

Reece, from Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland, added: “As a performer, it’s helped me to see how much more over the top I need to be because kids are going to see your face and even if you’re not smiling for a fraction of a second, they’re going to notice that.”

HealthyBods is part of a bigger project entitled LearningBods, which aims to engage primary aged children with areas of the National Curriculum through a theatrical interactive performance.

Hayley Dolan is a teacher at Grangetown Primary School in Sunderland, one of the schools involved in the project.

She said: “Healthybods is so very relevant for our children.

“The performance clearly captured the importance of not playing on screens in bed, differences in family groups, healthy eating and relationships.

“It was fantastic to see the diversity of the students in performance especially so many male role models.”

HealthyBods follows the success of NumberBods and ScienceBods – and has been inspired by the impact of COVID-19.

Students Use Performance Skills to Boost Children’s
Grangetown Primary School pupils

Sarah Riach, Principal Lecturer and Team Leader for Media and Performance at the University of Sunderland, said: “‘We have previously focused upon STEM subjects for LearningBods, but in response to the pandemic and following discussions with primary staff it became very apparent that the mental health of the children has and continues to be affected by the changing rules and impacts upon their life.

“Therefore, HealthyBods covers key aspects which aim to help children understand their feelings. We cover emotions, how they might be physicalised, described and shared with others.

“Under the bracket of similarities and differences we cover family dynamics, healthy eating and relationships encouraging the children to participate both physically and verbally.”

Students performing HealthyBods at Grangetown Primary School

Programme Leader for Performing Arts at the University, Rachel Emms, added: “After an intense period of studio practice, the students are reaping the rewards of their hard work, are experiencing a new context for performance, and are clearly seeing the positive impact their performance has on both the children and primary staff.”

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