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Virtual Family Wellness Initiative

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Melissa Cagan, Ivar Dameron, & Sian Sheu

The Environmental Charter School is a charter school organization based in Pittsburgh, PA with classes for students from kindergarten to 9th grade.  The school was founded in 2007 and has grown since then to provide schooling to over 950 students.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, the school came to our studio class with a challenge:

How might we use visual communication design to help constituents of the Environmental Charter School better understand pandemic response efforts from the school?

Our Solution

The Virtual Family Wellness Initiative was developed to alleviate pandemic-related stress within ECS households while also improving school-caregiver communication.  Our system provides tools to manage stressors and build skills through mindfulness activities, home learning tools, and family networking for long-term wellbeing.

Scope:  Parents of and students in kindergarten through second grade.

Mindfulness activities include a card deck, iPad app, and emotion chart.  Home learning tools contains a reusable daily planner and packet guide to virtual learning techniques.  Family networking was comprised of a pairing program for parents and caregivers via a survey.

The Research

Our research was based off interviews, parent focus groups, and online sources like the New York Times and Child Mind Institute.  My group organized our findings through an affinity diagram.

Our Takeaways

Throughout our research, stress emerged as an underlying current in communication between caregivers and ECS during the pandemic.  Research shows that:

1. Stress reduces ability to absorb and recall information

2. Individuals will avoid any possible negative, stressful information

3. Unmanaged stress increases emotional volatility.

This led our group to narrow our design question to:

How can we improve the social and emotional well-being of students and caregivers at ECS?

Our Response

My main focus was on the home learning tools, though I also assisted in creating mindfulness activities and gave feedback on the family networking ideas.  As I have previous experience in being an educator, I recognized that teaching young children requires skills and techniques that parents who are not educators might not have previously encountered.  With the move to virtual schooling, many guardians have found themselves increasingly stressed by the demands of overseeing all of their children's education.  Therefore the home learning tools I developed were created to help both caregivers and students organize a productive day of schooling even if there is little contact with the child's teacher.  These artifacts are a daily schedule, an emotion map, and a packet of classroom and behavioral management help.

Visual Style

Our aim was a fun, simple, and engaging color pallet with a playful but legible typeface.

My Deliverables

The Schedule

The schedule allows caregivers to organize information the school and transform the information into tasks for each day, while also highlighting each day’s priorities. 

Quick Fix Packet

The Quick Fix Packet offers a handy compilation of resources for parents and caregivers.  The four sections covered in the packet are on setting expectations for school time, de-escalation techniques for tantrums, what to do when a parent or child is too tired, and how to manage a kid who won’t listen or focus on school work.  Click here or on the images above to see the full packet PDF.

Emotion Map

The Emotion Map offers an accessible way for caregivers and students to recognize and talk about their emotions.  It is also an important tool for setting and adjusting expectations for each day.

Rough Drafts and Sketches

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