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

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

B.C. prof researching pandemic’s long-term effects on grade schoolers

Researcher hopes to ask 100 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 Vancouver Island University 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 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, and while it may be hard to isolate the effects of the coronavirus, there could be other benefits to the research, Morden said.

“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,” she said. “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

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

The Williams Lake Trail Riders Arena is slated to have a new roof installed this spring after funding from the province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Trail Riders Arena, stable stalls, to get new roof at Stampede Grounds

Some of the stalls currently aren’t able to be rented out due to leaks in the roof

A sign is seen this past summer outside Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Yunesit’in First Nation completes second round of vaccinations

A total of 26 people have since recovered from COVID-19 after having tested positive

A 100 Mile RCMP officer stands watch at the intersction of Highway 97 and Horse Lake Road. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Volunteers, police search Highway 97 for articles related to high-speed chase

Search will stretch from Canco Gas Station in Lac La Hache to 150 Mile House.

An aerial photograph captures snowmobile tracks in the Cameron Ridge area earlier this year, which is closed to snowmobilers. The closures are in place to protect sensitive caribou herds. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Snowmobilers fined for operating in closed caribou habitat near Likely, B.C.

The investigation revealed they had spent several hours in the closure leaving extensive tracks

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read