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Cool, Calm & Collective

Located in Edinburgh, Scotland, Broughton High School is a mainstream secondary school (ages 11 to 18 years). Of the 60 students that attended the workshops organised by Project Soothe, 9 students expressed an interest in becoming Young Citizen Scientists with Project Soothe and 8 formed a team. These students came up with the team name ‘Cool, Calm & Collective’, and designed a digital catalogue of themed albums of soothing images, accessed by QR code. We spoke to the Cool, Calm & Collective team to find out how they designed, evaluated, and piloted their wellbeing tool.

Try out the Cool, Calm & Collective tool

What were your aims for developing your wellbeing tool, and how did these influence your design?

When creating the Cool, Calm and Collective wellbeing tool, we aimed to focus on reducing stress in participants as well as increasing their mood and happiness. We wanted to design the tool in a way that participants could easily access it, especially if they had a stressful day. Therefore, we decided to mainly focus on measuring participants’ happiness levels before and after completing the tool as well as if their stress had been relieved. We decided to include an online questionnaire for participants to complete in order to get some insight on whether the tool truly did help raise happiness and relive stress.


What ideas did you come up with?

“We gave people the option to listen to music to enhance the stress-relieving effect of our tool”

We had decided as a team that we wanted to pursue the idea of creating an online tool, to tackle our aim of making it easily accessible for participants to use. Using images provided by Project Soothe, we assigned different group members to divide the images up into categories, some placed in colour groups, and others placed in specific groups like animals and water features. We initially had the idea that we would create three separate albums composed of twenty images of each category to allow for more options and easier selection, but in the end, we opted for only one album per category. We also decided that we would include an additional option for participants to be able to listen to music while they browsed, as we all agreed that music can also be helpful for reducing stress and uplifting a person’s mood. We tasked some members with finding appropriate music to go alongside the tool. However, we made this feature of the tool optional for participants and it wasn’t a feature we were adamant on measuring and analysing. As our tool was solely based online, we assigned group members to create a website which would include all the tools main features. In order to make the tool sound more appealing to test we also included a giveaway of a £20 Amazon gift voucher to encourage more participants to give it a go.


Were there any obstacles in designing your tool? 

Yes, unfortunately, we did encounter some issues regarding our plan for the tool. The music some of our team members had chosen had brought in copyright issues meaning we legally couldn’t use the music in the tool. However, thankfully we had the opportunity to be able to create some custom music for the tool with a musician supported by Project Soothe meaning the feature could still be a part of it. We also had to get rid of a few ideas along the way. When dividing the images up, we found that many of our chosen categories were quite unequal regarding the number of images in each one. Many albums contained around forty photographs while others remained at a mere ten or eleven photographs. To combat this, we had to join albums together and remove selected images from some to ensure that each album was relatively equal. This also meant we couldn’t follow our plan of creating three separate albums per category as we couldn’t find enough images for specific albums. 


How did you plan to collect data and pilot your tool? 

Since our group was situated in a school, we aimed to recruit the majority of our participants from this specific environment. Our aim was to reduce stress and increase people’s moods and happiness which is why we aimed for a specific age range. As we move on to high school it may even be the first time some people are exposed to stress, and they might not know how to deal with it or what to do, so we thought it would be good to approach students for our tool. We focused on aiming for 100 participants as this is a good number that gives us a wide variety of people and it reduces the risk of getting more internet trolls.  

We also agreed that each group member would mention the tool on our social media and would overall aim to spread the word through our social networks and family members. Since our tool was online, it proved slightly easier to inform people about as it could be easily accessed through a web link. We also created QR codes which could be scanned by people in our school through their phones instead of typing in a specific web address which we found could be easily mistyped. 

 Participants were recruited in the high school using a QR code with a brief explanation of the project. It was also shared through the group’s Instagram account. Once the school went into lockdown, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the supporter teachers shared a link to the wellbeing tool via email and TEAMS. 


How did you create your tool? 

To create our wellbeing tool, we decided to compile all of the collected photos and selected music to create a website. You can see the albums in the snapshot from our tool above. We thought a website was the best way to recruit participants as most of our 

focus age group (high schoolers) can have  easy access to the link on their personal device (e.g mobile phone, laptop etc). We made the website accessible to participants by copying the website QR code onto a blank word document and printing paper copies to stick around our school. We thought this was a quick, unique and easy way to intrigue people to test our tool as people can easily scan it without the hassle or time of having to type in a long link. It could also make people curious to see where the QR code takes them. 

Specifically, we followed this procedure:  

  1. To start with, we all thought about the best and most efficient way to spread the word. In the end, we decided that a QR code placed around the school would get the students attention enough to encourage them to participate. 
  2. We also added an incentive for them to try it out, in case they weren’t already convinced. Every participant that completed the survey got the chance to enter a prize draw to win an Amazon gift voucher worth £20. This made people more likely to get involved as they would not see it as a waste of time. 
  3. We then placed the QR code around the school, focusing on the densely populated areas, like the hub and busier hallways.
  4. We also handed the codes to students in other years as they spoke to their peers, to help utilise the word of mouth. We found that it was easier to recruit participants while speaking face to face as we could make an attempt to persuade them. 
  5. Finally, each of us put a link to the survey on our social media, to try and reach our peers who may not go to the same school. Although this helped get many more people, it also got people that weren’t in the correct age range, which took up time whilst going through the results.
  6. Once participants had been recruited, they were invited to test the Cool, Calm & Collective online wellbeing tool via the team’s webpage on Project Soothe’s Young Citizen Scientists website here. The wellbeing tool webpage also provided a link for participants to complete an Evaluation Questionnaire to provide their feedback after testing the tool.


How successful was your tool? 

100 participants completed the Cool, Calm and Collective evaluation questionnaire after testing the wellbeing tool. 100% of the participants gave consent for their feedback to be used in the tool’s evaluation. Most participants were aged 12-19 years old. 64 participants were under 16 and confirmed that they were given permission by their parent or guardian to participate. Most participants were female (63%), 28% were male and 9% preferred not to say. Most participants were white (80%) and 20% were of other ethnicities including: African, Asian, Black, Caribbean and Mixed. Most participants were from the UK (90%) and the other 10% were from the United States, Poland, Nigeria, China, Falkland Islands, Belgium, Bangladesh, Australia, Antigua and Bangladesh. 

With the images, it was found that the animal album (68%) and the water features album (64%) were the two most viewed albums. Participants found the animal, water and sunsets, sunrises and sky’s albums to be the most soothing, with 21% agreement for each. The least soothing album was the random album with 33% of participants agreeing so.  

We also evaluated the optional music with the tool. 36% of participants said that they did listen to the tool’s music album while browsing, while 39% browsed in silence, 21% listed to their own music and 12% listened to something else.  13% of participants who did listen to our music album found it very soothing, 29% found the music somewhat soothing, with only 4% finding the music not soothing. 

Overall, participants spent between 1-20 minutes using the tool, as shown in the graph below. The average (mean) time participants spent browsing images was 11 minutes.  

When asked if they would use the tool again, 46% of participants stated yes, 21% of participants said they would not use it again and 33% said they were not sure. When asked if they would recommend our tool to others, 50% of participants said they would, 23% said they wouldn’t and 27% said they were not sure. 

Qualitative data: Our last question asked for general feedback on our tool. We got a lot of positive reviews on how relaxing and great the tool was, with many people seeing a difference in their mood after participating. One participant stated “I found this tool very relaxing especially the photos of landscapes, flowers and water. Some beautiful pictures!” One participant also commented on the usage of music in the tool, they stated “Great idea. I liked the images you picked. For me, the music was very evocative and made me relax more than the images alone. I know this because at first, I looked at the images without the soothing music, and then put the music on. I felt myself relax with the music. Thank you.” Many participants also stated that they would use our tool again with one participant saying, “It works great! Very cool. Would use plenty of times again. 10/10.” However, we spotted other themes while reviewing the comments. Some people commented that the tool was too simple and that there was not much for people to do. One participant stated, “The reason why I wouldn’t recommend this to another peer is because I found this very simple.” Another criticism we found resurfaced occasionally was that people found the layout confusing or difficult to understand. A participant commented that they found it confusing, and another did not understand what they were meant to do. Others overall enjoyed the experience but thought there should be another way to view the photographs. For example, a participant said the tool “needs a different way of browsing the images.” Although some participants stated that the tool was too simplistic, the overall evidence from participants showed that it was effective at reducing stress and increasing relaxation and happiness. Therefore, it is proposed that Cool, Calm & Collective is a simple evidenced-based wellbeing tool that can be further developed to include more technical features and personalisation options in the future. 

Find out more

Download the Young Citizen Scientists Project report (PDF)

Funding Support

We are grateful to have received funding from the following organisations.