Moving into the pandemic lockdown, Assistant Prof. Jen Watt says people are starting to realize what’s happening when young people can’t make the connections provided in school.

“Although we have always known it, Covid-19 has helped us to see how important school is for providing connections, for providing support, and for providing meaning,” says Watt. “All of these are contributors to well-being and well-becoming. I think it’s so important to have these conversations and to have them right now.”

With this realization, Watt started the Schools of Well-Being podcast. Researchers and academics discuss well-being and well-becoming and how it connects to schools, students, teachers, educational leaders, and communities.

The program also includes conversations with K-12 educators about inspiring ways their schools practising well-being and well-becoming.

Watt hopes to reach other academics who research well-being in education, but other disciplines as well.

“We have informal partnerships with people in philosophy, and social work and psychology,” Watt says. “We’re starting to think more interdisciplinary around well-being.”

To create the weekly podcast, Watt has partnered with BEd student Malcolm Ericastilla-Somers, who provides the soundtrack, and PhD student Rebeca Heringer, who produces, edits and designs graphics for the show.

Formerly a bachelor’s student in social communication with a focus on advertising, Heringer says she has been able to re-engage skills she developed in her undergrad with a theoretical understanding gained through her graduate studies.

“This project has been like a real highlight in my program,” Heringer says. “This project is really a metaphor for well-being because students are actually getting involved holistically.”

Using only cellphones and a Zoom app, Watt says the U of M Research Start-Up-funded project is exceeding her expectations both in terms of content and in its reach.

“We try to show people what is possible to do with their students,” she says, adding her podcasts are getting more downloads that her journal papers.

“There’s something about getting the stories out there in a way that people can connect to,” Watt says. “I think most students would be happier to be listening to a lively conversation, than a reading journal article.”

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