A mobile app and set of interactive activities to help families with young kids manage pandemic-related stressors and build skills for long-term wellbeing.
Environmental Charter School
Our challenge was to create a design system that could improve pandemic-fueled communications between parents and school administrators. Our client, The Environmental Charter School (ECS), was struggling to connect with and support its parent community during the pandemic.
We designed a holistic set of interventions for pandemic-triggered stressors in school households. In the mental health and wellness space, we created The Mindful Deck, a set of 36 activity cards to cultivate compassion and calm, and the Mindful Kids app, focused on independent learning and emotional development.
We began by investigating where communication pain points existed and how they were experienced on both ends. We collected data from interviews with school administrators, parent focus groups, survey analysis, and secondary resources.
We mapped insights and findings onto an affinity diagram to visualize themes and pain points. From first-person accounts, it became clear that stress was an undercurrent in all school-parent communications. Academic research revealed a cyclical connection between household stress levels and users abilities to communicate compassionately with one another.
How might we improve the social and emotional well-being of students and caregivers?
We brainstormed interventions that could address intersecting pain points. Our process included mapping out connections between ideas to find holistic solutions.
Our process led to the design of the Family Wellness Initiative — a holistic framework to helping parents and students manage educational and life stressors exacerbated by the pandemic.
The Family Wellness Initiative takes a three-pronged approach to creating interventions at scale. At this point, my work was centered around the middle goal: to use mindfulness tools to help users manage stressors outside of their control.
From the Oxford Dictionary: mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Our team found that mindfulness is more than a trend; it is a research-backed skill that can play a huge role in regulating emotions and managing household stress levels.
In the first illustrated scenario, Joey, a second grader at ECS, uses the Mindful Kids app to build emotional development and mindfulness skills.
Joey's school day has ended but his parents are still working.
He launches the Mindful Kids app from his iPad.
In the app, he records how he's feeling that day.
Videos guide him through fun mindfulness activities.
Joey's parents later views a report of his emotional development that week.
They talk with Joey about his emotional changes to build long-term skills.
In the second scenario, Joey and his mother Lisa practice activities from the Mindful Deck interactively with the Mindful Kids app.
Joey and his mother, Lisa, pull out the Mindful Deck.
Lisa reads the cards aloud to Joey.
They're not sure how to do tree pose from the card instructions.
Joey and Lisa pull out the Mindful Kids app and navigate to the movement resources.
On the app, they watch video instruction and successfully learn tree pose.
The look and feel of our system is intended to be fun and approachable for children, sophisticated enough to resonate with adults. We created a visual style that is simple, engaging, and intentional.
The Mindful Deck
Making mindfulness fun and interactive, the Mindful Deck is a set of 36 front-and-back activity cards for kids and families. Cards are simple enough for children to follow along, complex enough for adults to enjoy. Activities cultivate compassion, focus, and calm.
A deck of cards is a participatory, tactile format that allows families to step away from the constant stimulation of technology. It encourages co-learning between parents and children.
Mindful Movement cards are calming movements for focus and calm, such as yoga poses.
Table Topics contain conversation prompts around building self esteem and compassion.
Expressing Emotions teach emotional identification and coping skills.
Amazing Activity cards feature breathing exercises and sensory meditations.
Created for tablets, the Mindful Kids mobile app supports the Mindful Deck by tracking emotional development and encouraging independent skills development. Audio and video-driven content makes content accessible to kids 4+, with or without a parent facilitator.
Content builds upon the activities in the Mindful Deck, acting as an additional resource for activities. Daily emotional check-ins help develop emotional intelligence, set expectations for themselves, and create intentions for the day.
In addition to end-to-end design of the Mindful Deck and the Mindful Kids app, I worked closely with my teammates to create other pieces of the Initiative, including programmatic and communication. You can see some examples on my teammates' sites here and here.
Impact & Reflections
We presented our final designs to the CEO and head administrators, who emphasized our proactive mindset, holistic approach, and creative problem-solving. Our project revealed possibilities with a new frontier of relationship-building with school families, and they were thrilled to integrate our work into their existing initiatives around mental health and student recruitment.
Through this project, I learned how to create a solution with a long impact when tackling a temporal problem. I'm proud of the design risks my team took to deliver an unexpected, thoughtful, and joyful product.