Developing Life Skills

In our fast changing world, it is more important than ever that we help children develop crucial life skills such as resilience, risk taking and perseverance. However, these are quite abstract ideas and can be hard for children to understand what they "look like".

The Gem Project

Working together with Dr Tom Robson, we introduced the Gem Project to Combe Down Primary, which seeks to help children recognise and therefore develop key life skills.

The six 'gem powers' we highlight to children are:

     Diamond……being responsible
  • tries to solve his/her own problem rather than relying on an adult
  • uses their learning ‘toolkit’ (different strategies they have been taught) to identify what they need to do when they are stuck
  • uses their talk partners/teachers to ask good questions to help move their learning on
     Emerald…..being courageous and sticking with it even when it gets tough
  • brave enough to ‘have a go’ with their learning even though they know they might make a mistake
  • comfortable to make mistakes as they know these help them to learn
  • learn from their mistakes and ‘bounce back’, they stick with it
  • remains calm even though they have been upset or angry
     Sapphire….keeping focus
  • keeps on task even though there are lots of distractions
  • keeps listening to others (teacher and others in the class) even when there are distractions
     Ruby……..supporting others
  • gives support to others by listening to them and smiling at them
  • praises others when they do well
  • helps others when they have a problem
     Topaz ……collaboration…learning in a big group
  • shares at least one idea with the whole group
  • takes turns to share ideas
  • asks different questions in their group to make sure that they have known that their idea is in everyone’s heads
   Amethyst …cooperation….learning with a partner
  • shares ideas with their partner talking and listening skills
  • takes in turns to listen and then share what they thought
  • adds new idea(s) to their old ones

The Science Behind the Gem Project

As Tom Robson explained to staff and children, when we are put in a situation where we need to use one of these skills our bodies produce certain chemicals. In small doses the chemicals are beneficial but in large doses they can induce negative emotions such as worry and stress. It is important that our children are put in situations where they experience the chemicals and associated emotions in small doses so that they are able to recognise and cope with the emotions when they face challenges in life that might induce large doses of the chemicals.

As parents and teachers we naturally wish to help and protect our children; however, we can shield them so much that they fail to practise and develop these important life skills. By awarding gems for particular skills, we encourage children to practise the skills even if it means they are putting themselves outside of their comfort zone. 

More Information

More information about Tom Robson and the Gem Project can be found at Tom's web site

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