14th July 2017
The Soul Space returned to Sheringham High School in July for a fifth year to offer students a creative and imaginative space for prayer and reflection. Once again the drama studio was transformed by creating a variety of zones filled with interactive activities all with the purpose of encouraging the students to explore their spirituality, engage with prayer and give them the opportunity and space for thoughtful reflection.
The Soul Space was organised by Peter Skivington (Youth & Children's Pastor - Lighthouse Community Church) and Constance Tyce (St Peter’s Church and school governor) along with a team of volunteers from local churches, and was supported by Jo Paffett (Head of Philosophy & Ethics).
The core activities which are at the heart of the project; namely acts of thanksgiving, petition, saying sorry and big life questions, help the students navigate thought and reflection.
Another element of the space encourages the students to think about wider world issues and helps them engage in social action. This year we focused on the important issue of climate change and particularly how it can often be the poorest communities in the world which experience the worst effects of this. Students were able to make a windmill and add it to our mini windfarm to show their support to the campaign for our government to do all within its power to combat climate change and invest in renewable energy sources. The students will present the windmills to Norman Lamb, our local MP, when he visits after the Summer holidays.
New activities this year included the ‘empty chair’- where students were encouraged to think about someone missing from their lives, either because they’d died or moved away, reflect on memories of that person and tie a ribbon to the chair. This opportunity to reflect on bereavement was very powerful with several saying how helpful they’d found it.
Feedback from the students, staff and volunteers was overwhelmingly positive. Comments in the feedback box included, “It made me notice the beautiful world we live in,” “It made me feel thankful for who I am,” “It helped me express my feelings,” “It made me feel loved,” “It’s helpful for people going through tough times,” and, “I can see light in the darkness now!”
Another part of the zone was ‘character cards’ where students take positive character trait cards out of a suitcase and discuss which of these they see evidence of in their lives. For many this was a very encouraging and affirming experience and it was lovely seeing Year 6 students rushing to do this again with their parents at the Sheringham High Open Evening!
It was evident from the ‘Prayer Wall’ that young people are greatly affected by political and social issues. This year, in particular, there was a greater number of requests regarding current affairs such as acts of terrorism and Grenfell Tower tragedy. It has been an uplifting experience and real blessing to see the students' heartfelt responses, their empathy for others and their appreciation of all the 'good stuff' in their lives.
The Soul Space was also open to the local community and parents. Many of the visitors to the Soul Space said that the space had a powerful effect on them - “It gives such an insight into the lives of our young people,” said one visitor.
One teacher reflected on his astonishment at the way the students embraced the space and the activities, “Each year I am amazed by their level of engagement and depth of their reflections. This space has the unique ability to create opportunities for some deep thinking and connections that cannot be replicated in the classroom. I am constantly surprised by the students’ responses and empathy. It is a thought-provoking space that the students really look forward to and they recognise its value.”
At the end of the event, Pete Skivington reflected, “This year’s Soul Space has again been a brilliant time of seeing students purposefully engage with the activities, offering up their heartfelt concerns and thanksgiving and, for some, making a connection with God - I recall one student commenting, ‘I feel recognised, like God knows me’. The Soul Space creates an atmosphere of peace and reflection for all.”
It is clear that, in the hectic pace of life, we all need the ‘space’ to stop, think and reflect about some of the bigger issues in our own lives and that of the wider world. The Soul Space at Sheringham High allowed for just that; both students and staff found it tremendously beneficial to have a space to be still and think afresh about life and spirituality and, for some, to find clarity and peace.