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Leaders in Positive Education

Western Australia’s North Woodvale Primary School are leaders in Positive Education which stems from Martin Seligman’s research that brings together the science of Positive Psychology with best practice and teaching. It encourages individuals, schools and communities to flourish. Rachael Robertson reports.

North Woodvale has adopted the Kids Matter Framework and utilises the School Drug Education and Road Safety (SDERA) resources to implement resilience education for all years (K-6).

You might be asking- why implement Positive Education in primary school? Well, I learnt that suicide is the leading cause of death for young Australians between the ages of 15-24. I also found that mental health difficulties will affect approximately 1 in 7 Australian primary school children. 1 in 7! With around 50% of mental health difficulties occurring before the age of 14, North Woodvale realised that we have the opportunity to make a difference by building positive mental health at a primary school level.

The Australian Curriculum General Capabilities for self-management found that if students are taught how to be resilient, they find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, develop a sense of self-worth, resolve conflict and feel positive about themselves and the world around them.

North Woodvale created a Positive Education committee at the end of 2014. Our committee is diverse. It consists of administration, teachers, education assistants and a parent representative. I am the team leader of this committee and am passionate and excited about this initiative. We strive to give children the knowledge to deal with challenging of difficult situations. We want to equip them with the skills to be able to deal with struggles they may come across now, or later in life.

Design competition

At the beginning of 2015, I decided to run a new marketing campaign for Positive Education. I ran a design competition to create the school banner. After deliberating with the team, the slogan- ‘Think Happy, Be Happy’ was selected. Students were asked to create a poster that would reflect the statement making it relevant to them at North Woodvale. Student response was overwhelming with over 80 students submitting a poster. I used a Variety grant to print the design onto a banner. Due to the overwhelming response from students, the committee decided to select the best 5 illustrations and print them onto postcards and magnets that students could send to family and friends.

Grow Your Mind Day

I had the opportunity to work collaboratively with the staff and students from Geelong Grammar (GG) in a session titled – a living library of Positive Education in Action at the annual Positive Schools Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference. While covering key concepts such as mindfulness, gratitude and resilience, GG also shared the success of an annual ‘Grow Your Mind Day’. The day offered a range of activities focusing on student’s wellbeing. I was so inspired, I devised a plan and took it to my wonderful committee. The date was set for the end of term 3 and the planning and organising process has commenced. Teachers selected and were responsible for one activity on the day as students and parents moved around to different stations. The P & C association organised a lovely morning tea for the parents that attended.

The activities were fun, engaging and taught students the skills to deal with challenging situations. Activities ranged from creating mindful glitter jars in junior primary where students counted their breaths while the glitter dropped to the bottom, to positive chalk drawing, to creating flour filled stress balls in upper primary. I used a $250 grant from the West Australian Association for Mental Health enabling us to purchase resources for the day. We invited the fitness programs Aspire Kids and Crossfit Kids to come and conduct a whole school fitness session. Healthy body, healthy mind!

I contacted the West Coast Eagles and Perth Wildcats requesting players to come to come along as sports players are role models for students. They sent Rowan Powell from West Coast and Damian Martin and Jarrod Kenny from the Wildcats, who not only engaged students, staff and parents; they were motivational, discussing the hardships and joy of being a professional sports player.

We had an amazing atmosphere at our school as Channel 9’s ‘The Today Show’ came in the morning to present the weather.

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