Leighton Project

Leighton Project students learning to fly!
Project summary
We were working with 8 fabulous students from Leighton College, all with different needs and all new to aerial. We were able to offer 5 aerial sessions with the objective of working towards increased employability for the participants. The sessions were all on the aerial sling with a focus on learning and helping each other to learn new skills. The Aerial team consisted of the incredibly talented Beatrice Perini, Eleanor Jarvis and Edel Wigan.
Overall Aim:  
To improve mental and physical well being of the participants, to facilitate their social and employability skills/opportunities.
The workshop was planned by considering the 5 ways to Mental Wellbeing as follows: 

CONNECTING - To learn to trust and be trusted; being responsible for your own and others safety, we well as to build and improve social skills,  by creating a sense of belonging and community. 
During the workshops, participants work in pairs and in groups and needed to develop trust and responsibility.
BEING ACTIVE - To improve physical fitness and general wellbeing.
The nature of the workshop is very physical. The participants will be offered a mixture of warm up and cool down exercises as well as technique based learning and creative exploration. It is well known that keeping active makes you feel good and this permeates across all aspects of life.
BEING AWARE  - To develop increased levels of attention and focus.
Aerial fitness is exciting and fun, and also involves a degree of controlled risk. This will require participants to be present and mindful of the moment, helping developing a higher level of attention and focus.

LEARNING - To generate a sense of empowerment in each participant.
Our aim is to help the participants learn some basic aerial technique in a clear and simple manner with easy to follow step by step instructions. Learning a new skill can make you feel good about yourself, more confident and adventurous and we hope the participants discover and develop a new interest.

GIVING - To build up a general sense of wellbeing, personal and social responsibility.
During to the sharing nature of the activity both in pairs and in groups, the participants will learn how to help each other, creating a peer supported environment. Helping and being helped makes you and other people feeling good.

Project Summary

Every session centered around helping the participants learn some basic aerial technique in a clear and simple manner with easy to follow step by step instructions. 

Over 5 aerial sessions the students worked towards:
– Building up a general sense of wellbeing, personal and social responsibility.
– Generating a sense of empowerment in each participant.
– Exploring creativity and independent thinking, decision making and problem solving
– Personal motivation, focus and a sense of belonging
– Helping strengthen all major muscle groups and improve the suppleness of the joints
– Improve gross motor coordination and manual dexterity needed for a full and independent life
– Improve posture, combat obesity and prevent related conditions such as diabetes, heart and breathing problems
– Working both in pairs and in groups, the participants learnt how to help each other, creating a peer supported environment and encouraging confidence and boosting self-esteem.


The results

The progression from week to week was amazing. It can be difficult to learn a new skill, but every week, the students were visibly more confident and adventurous, in different degrees of course, but everyone made positive steps. Using the aerial equipment enabled them to trust in themselves more and to be trusted to help others, as they were responsible for their own and others safety. Being on the sling is a lot of fun but also involves a degree of controlled risk which encourages focus through being present in the moment. 

These are just a few of our highlights:

IY was very reluctant to join in warm up but then got in the sling and didn't want to get out (to be fair, not wanting to get out the sling was a weekly occurence for most!) 

KM's tutors were worried she wouldn't want to join in. Not only did she turn upside down every week, but she stood up in the sling and made us all cry by her emotional revelation that she has always had pain in her feet, and couldn't believe herself that they had been able to support her in the way they did!

HJ took a few weeks to turn upside himself, but despite being non verbal, was incredibly helpful and accurate when assisting his partner to turn upside down.

AP didn't speak at all on week 1. And then amazed his tutor on week 2 with his detailed instructions from the week before, showing great understanding and retention.

We loved it, so much so, that the follow-up session has already been lined up.

Testimonials from happy participants

Thank you very much for the sessions! There is still a buzz about the experience and AG said that doing it was her proudest moment at a recent achievements assembly, which is amazing!

"Can we do it again? Because it was fun!" QD

"at first I thought I couldn't do this, then I found I could, and it has made me feel that if I can do this, that I can do other things in life I thought I couldn't do" JT

"My favourite session ever. Very relaxing in the sling. You feel very calm." JN

And given you don't just need words to communicate, the smiles are evident in the photos.