A Vancouver Island University psychology professor will conduct research on the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on learning and mental health of students. (Stock photo)

A Vancouver Island University psychology professor will conduct research on the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on learning and mental health of students. (Stock photo)

VIU prof researching pandemic’s effects on mental health and education of grade schoolers

Researcher hopes to ask 90-120 families about their experiences over time

With virus exposures in schools and changing education models due to COVID-19, a university instructor in Nanaimo is interested in examining effects of the pandemic on student learning and emotional well-being.

Marla Morden, a VIU psychology professor and developmental psychologist, received $6,000 in B.C. Ministry of Health COVID-19 research grant money and wants to hear from families, particularly with kindergarten to Grade 4 students, about impacts of home-schooling, distance learning and classroom environments during the pandemic.

Morden and her team will be asking if distance-learning students will experience more isolation from their peers, and if there will be related behavioural and mental health impacts. If another suspension of in-class instruction occurs, would that disruption cause mental health issues for those students and how long would that last, researchers wonder. Morden also hopes to hear about positive experiences and unexpected benefits of education models that families have selected.

“I think we will see some behaviour and some mental health impacts for children because that’s what studies and parents are telling us, but I’m not sure how long-lasting it will be,” Morden said. “I’m hoping that we‘ll see even as early as next fall, or the following year, that children who are resilient will be back to normal, but it’s hard to say.”

Information will be gathered through “standard psychological-type surveys,” such as ones to determine parents and caregivers’ stress levels, and open-ended questions to both children and caregivers.

“We’re just giving them prompts and then we’re asking them to share their experiences about going to school this year…” said Morden. “We might ask, ‘How have your social relationships been? How have the teachers been? Have you found that there have been enough supports?’ and then just letting them share their experiences in a more open-ended way.”

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district has seen an increase of distance education enrolment in 2020-21, with K-9 registration recently halted due to demand. Denise Wood, teachers’ union president, said while she hasn’t heard from K-4 teachers about students expressing fears about coronavirus, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

“There’s high anxiety levels throughout the schools, at all levels,” said Wood.

RELATED: ‘Unprecedented’ rise in distance-ed students due to COVID-19

Students might not be explicitly expressing fears about the virus, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned, added Susan Riordan, junior school principal at Aspengrove School, an independent school in Lantzville.

“The age group I work with, they’re not likely to come and say, ‘Oh hi Mrs. Riordan, I’m really worried about COVID-19,’ but we might see anxious behaviours a little bit more…” said Riordan of her primary students. “They’re asking to wash their hands when they might not normally have been the type to do that. They might get upset if someone gets too close to them.”

Subjects will be tracked for five years, according to Morden, and while it may be hard to isolate the effects of the coronavirus, there could be other benefits to the research.

“It could help us to see if there’s any difference between the behaviour of mental health of children who are home-schooled and who go to [bricks-and-mortar] school,” said Morden. “We could see that there’s no difference there, so that would be really great, or we could see that one group has an advantage.”

Anyone wanting to take part in the research can e-mail Morden at marla.morden@viu.ca. She’s hoping to get in contact with somewhere between 90 and 120 families.

“I know a lot of families are really excited about this research and think it’s really important, so I want them to be aware that it’s happening,” she said.

For more information, visit wordpress.viu.ca/mordenlab.

RELATED: SD68 distance-ed registration on hold for now

RELATED: VIU faculty look at COVID-19 impact on community



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Karl on Twitter and Instagram

CoronavirusVIU

Just Posted

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Shaelyn Sinnott of Oak Bay Volunteer Services delivers groceries for client Irene Kenny. The organization has kept up delivery of food and medication throughout all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Oak Bay Volunteer Services)
Oak Bay volunteers keep critical services running

Duo drove between Oak Bay and Jubilee three days a week, twice a day during pandemic

Al Kohut, owner of the new photographers GALLERY, checks out Looking Back by David Bradt. The photo printed on canvas is among 50 images featured in the Birds on the Wild Side exhibition showing until July 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Photo gallery in Sidney plucks out top bird photos

Birds on the Wild Side show running at the new photographers GALLERY until July 3

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read