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‘Boxes of Potential’ delivering a fun way of reconnecting with learning

News | 7 June 2021

Boxes of Potential 

​First Campus, Reaching Wider is giving children in south-east Wales the gift of creativity and a mental health boost, thanks to the delivery of its latest ‘Box of Potential’.

Boxes of Potential are themed activity packs created and delivered by Cardiff Metropolitan University’s First Campus team to Key Stage 2 children in schools and other educational/care settings in the community. They offer alternative, fun and educational activities to help children aged 7-11 engage with the real world rather than through a screen and address some of the educational and social disruption caused by Covid.

First Campus is HEFCW’s Reaching Wider Partnership for South East Wales; a partnership of Cardiff Metropolitan University, University of South Wales and Cardiff University, funded by Welsh Government. The Partnership aims to raise awareness, reduce barriers and create pathways to Higher Education for underrepresented groups and communities in south-east Wales through the provision of long term, sustainable learning opportunities.

The activities within the boxes have all been developed alongside academics and students within Cardiff Metropolitan University, so the children can learn things directly transferrable to University life.

Ellie Bevan, First Campus Manager at Cardiff Metropolitan University, explains: "When the pandemic hit last March, we looked at how best to engage children and young people who had been affected by isolation and remote learning in our programmes.

"Our first thought was to move programmes online, but we found children were being totally overwhelmed by digital content as almost everything in their lives had moved online – school, extracurricular activities, even socialising. We therefore wanted to provide alternative, fun and educational activities that they could engage with in the real world, rather than through a screen.

"We ran a smaller scale summer programme with a number of local primaries as part of Cardiff Council’s Summer Squad and got some really great feedback from the school staff and children. This inspired us to develop a longer-term programme of engagement, and so the Boxes of Potential programme was born.

"In total, over the three Boxes of Potential so far, we’ve delivered almost 4,000 Boxes, growing exponentially from 700 for Box 1, to 1,200 for Box 2, and now 2,000 for Box 3."

With sustainability as its theme, this latest Box of Potential includes the new book by young climate activist and role model Greta Thunberg, designed to inspire young people to believe they can genuinely make a difference in the world.

Other contents include wildflower seeds and clay to make ‘bee bombs’ (native wildflower seedballs), sustainability bingo, and ‘draw your journey’ and ‘my community’ activities to help the children feel a connection to their local environment.

As many children don’t have access to the resources many people take for granted, each Box of Potential contains all the necessary equipment and instructions, together with two case studies of current undergraduates or recent graduates studying a relevant subject area. The children can then keep any unused resources to use in the future.

This is the third Box of Potential to have been delivered so far over the course of the last year, each linked to an academic school or department, or key area of focus, within Cardiff Metropolitan University.

These have included art and design, where children were encouraged to create and print their own wrapping paper, and sport, health and wellbeing, with activities including aromatherapy and reflexology and a challenge to design their own kit for a chosen sport.

The Boxes of Potential programme aligns with the wider aims of the First Campus programme, which is to offer opportunities for learning and development to help open children’s eyes to the possibility of a university education, where barriers, real or perceived, exist. It is also designed to give them a better understanding of the breadth and depth of subject areas they could potentially study.

While the majority of children participating in the Boxes of Potential programme do so during class time at their schools, care experienced young people and young carers can also sign up to receive a box– either individually or through First Campus’ partner organisations like the YMCA, Barnardo’s and Local Authorities – to participate at home. This means that the project can reach out more widely to groups of young people who have been significantly adversely affected by Covid and provide a positive learning experience.

Ninian Park Primary School in Cardiff was among 16 primary schools and nearly 2,000 Key Stage 2 pupils to receive the latest Box of Potential. Headteacher Jenny Scott said: "The Boxes of Potential have allowed us to further enhance our wellbeing curriculum at a time when this is foremost in our minds. It has supported our children through lockdown and distance learning, to the transition back into school and beyond. 

"Each themed box has allowed us to help our pupils to express themselves in a variety of inventive ways, focus on their physical and mental wellbeing and understand how the two are connected. The opportunity to share the activities with project organisers at First Campus in Metropolitan University has given tasks and activities even greater purpose and importance."   

Commenting on previous Boxes of Potential delivered to their pupils, Karen Brown, Headteacher at Millbank Primary School, said: "We are thrilled to be part of this project. The wellbeing Boxes were perfectly timed to reach the children just after they returned to school after the lockdown. They really liked the resources and ideas to help with fitness, such as cones and beanbags, and with mindfulness, such as essential oils and little bags of herbs. This means things we do in school to teach good health and wellbeing can be replicated at home, for both child and parents."

Kyle Boddy, a teacher at Meadowlane Primary School, said: "The Boxes of Potential we’ve received so far have been absolutely fantastic. More than 130 children have been able to explore new resources and amazing new learning experiences, and they particularly enjoyed printing their own Christmas wrapping paper in the autumn term. They have thoroughly enjoyed taking part and look forward to future boxes" 

The fourth Box of Potential is due to be delivered during the second half of the summer term.