You remember school, don’t you? A place that promised fun while learning. A place where the key building blocks of stable and healthy development in the early years were stacked and mortared in place. A place where friendships could be formed for life. A place where accepted social standards were imprinted on us, and the base pillars of education taught while our young and fertile minds are capable of extreme absorption, and retention. In reality – for me anyway – it was a place of awkwardness, uncertainty, and often anxiety, with few avenues for me to express this and be understood. I just had to “buck up, and deal with it.” How I wished there was somewhere I could escape to from time to time.
Of course, that was a different era, and things have changed. We are far more understanding and knowledgeable in 2023. School years are years of growth, of changes to both the physical and the mental aspects of our being, and as I am sure you can agree, they are turbulent and confusing to say the least. As society grows, new ideas are nurtured. New technologies and techniques are employed in pursuit of education and the shaping of the next generations, just as the exponential expansion of technology continues in our home lives. This is where schools are – more and more – stepping up to the plate to help create spaces for children to decompress. To alleviate worries, stress, and anxiety to ultimately centre themselves.
There have been multiple studies surrounding the health benefits of keeping an aquarium. Both physical, and mental improvements have been found in those people who participated in the studies, including reductions in heartrates, and blood pressure. When interviewed by the BBC, Dr. Mathew White from the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) said:
“Firstly, we were particularly interested in aquatic environments. Obviously, most people cannot see different kinds of fish because they do not dive etc, so aquariums are a nice way to make the invisible marine environment just outside our doors visible and accessible.
“More fundamentally, we were interested in how natural environments could be brought to urban populations and to people who might not be able to access nature very well.
“Most of the physiological changes happened within the first five minutes and then plateaued out, so it happened quite quickly and then stabilised. However, the psychological measures showed that the benefits continued over the entire exposure – people got happier and happier, basically.”
The term “Aquarium Therapy” was coined in the 1990’s when studies began, and scientists are still debating just how watching fish helps people with their physical and mental health. Is it simply the calming movement of the fish creating a sort of hypnosis to relax the mind and muscles? Is it more primal than that? Some scientists argue that humans have a “genetic predisposition towards nature” that we have a biological programming to seek out natural environments. Perhaps the contrast from the fast-paced, artificial world that we surround ourselves with today is the reason schools, and healthcare providers are turning to aquariums to provide that innate calming environment that is so lacking in our day-to-day lives.
Aquariums are also a valuable educational resource. Allowing children to see beneath the waves and witness a whole other world sparks curiosity and imagination. It can help demonstrate that everything has its place and function, and how they interact with each other to create an ecosystem. Everything in an aquarium is there by design, and contributes to a healthy, functioning environment. It is no wonder then that schools are taking to installing aquariums more than ever.
Children today have more access to the world at large than any other generation before them, and this will continue going forward, no doubt. But it tends to be a skewed view of the world: One seen only through the lens of a camera. Where do they fit into that world, and how will they contribute to it? What will the long-term effect of tech exposure be? Who can tell, but one thing is for certain, children are taking a lot more in to school than ever before.
A news article that popped up in their feed that is weighing on their mind. The twenty-four / seven access to entertainment disrupting routine and leading to tiredness. These are just a couple of things that schools are having to deal with, and that’s before we even talk about things like SATs that put additional pressure on the young students.
It is more important than ever that we provide avenues to alleviate pressures like the above, and remind us that there is a wide, beautiful world of wonder out there, away from the disruptive blue-light of a phone or tablet screen.
Neurodiversity and SEN
Our understanding of neurodiversity has also grown vastly in the past couple of decades, with most schools now having dedicated teams of staff to help provide support for pupils with extra, or special educational needs. Many schools have created sensory rooms that have proven invaluable for pupils that are not neuro typical. Different textures, smells, sounds, and lighting can all be found in these rooms, and we are seeing a rise in people installing bubble-tubes and aquariums in these spaces to provide a little aquarium therapy for these children to enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of the more widely used school spaces. This lowers potential anxiety, and allows a pupil to relax, lower their heart rate, ease tension in muscles, and breathe easily.
It’s Not Just the Kids!
Teachers too, are under so much pressure to deliver the curriculum, deal with the above issues (and then some), as well as trying to navigate all the trials and tribulations of adult life in the modern world. Another reason then why we are seeing schools dedicate space to wellness rooms, and meditation spaces. Teach by example. Show children that it is perfectly fine to take yourself away from the to-do list and have 5 minutes of quiet watching the fish to reset. It is a technique becoming more and more popular. The same is being seen in healthcare facilities for their waiting rooms. Implementing a gorgeous aquarium to create a feeling of ease and relaxation in their waiting rooms to aid apprehensive patients (and make the space look pretty, too). Offices also, are turning to aquariums to create a space where staff can gather for meetings, or to take lunch, or just take a break from the grind, understanding that a relaxed employee, is a productive employee.
How We Can Help
Aqualease service over 400 schools and businesses, providing outstanding hassle-free aquarium rentals that transform their physical spaces, as well as the mental health of their staff, customers, and pupils through aquarium therapy. Our services also ensure that customers don’t need to worry about the fuss and maintenance of fish-keeping either. No tank clean, no filter maintenance. They only need to remember to feed their aquatic friends. All the benefit, none of the hassle.
We also offer our highly regarded Aqua-Explorer experience days where our experienced marine rangers will come to your school with a mobile rockpool and its denizens and talk to children all about rockpools. Children are encouraged to handle the creatures and learn all about them, asking questions and exploring a slice of life that reside on our coastlines. These days are always well enjoyed by children and adults alike with the team enjoying 100% satisfaction in feedback for 2023. We have recently extended this to year 7 and 8 pupils in secondary schools and are investigating the benefits of providing this service to elderly, and specialist care homes. Aquarium therapy in a new form!
We can help transform a space with our range of aquarium options to suit your needs and bring a fantastic focal point, and conversation starter that helps you stand out from the crowd, not just in aesthetics, but with how your people feel. It has proven time and again, to be an investment that cannot be understated, and we are happy, and proud to be a part of change that brings positivity into people’s lives.
I’m sure, if I would have had access to an Aquarium in school, I would have been a far less anxious child.
Contact us today to get an aquarium installed at your school and start improving the mindfulness and wellbeing of your students
By Alan Bretherton, Aqualease