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New program helps students build resilience


‘Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness’ will be the focus for students at St Joseph’s School, Murray Bridge, next year as they introduce a program aimed at building student wellbeing and resilience.

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As part of the school’s curriculum students will learn skills and strategies that will help them become more resilient and able to overcome life’s challenges.

Deputy principal Erika Dixon said with St Joseph’s moving to a R-9 school by 2023, the school wanted a program that really focused on the mental wellbeing of students.

“The Resilience Project appealed to us as it is easy for children to understand its three guiding principles of Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness and is linked to the Australian Curriculum and CESA’s Key Capability Continua,” she said.

With the challenges presented by COVID-19 it had become clear that students of all ages at the school needed life-long guiding principles to maintain their wellbeing and mental health. The leadership team began searching for a suitable wellbeing program that could be implemented in 2021 that suited Reception to Year 9 students.

The Resilience Project was founded by Hugh van Cuylenburg after he spent time living and volunteering in the far north of India and was inspired by how happy the people were, despite having very little to call their own.

He developed a program – which has been successfully evaluated by the University of Melbourne – that delivers ‘emotionally engaging’ sessions to schools, sports clubs and businesses, providing practical, evidence-based mental health strategies to ‘build resilience and happiness’.

St Joseph’s is the first Catholic school, and only the second in South Australia, to become a partner school with the project.

Coordinating the program at St Joseph’s is educator Rachel Law who described it as a “wraparound process”, involving not only the student but also their family.

“The program will run in classrooms for an hour each week and there will be activities that parents can do at home with their children,” she said.

“The staff see it as being a really worthwhile project because if the child’s wellbeing is healthy and they are resilient, they can be successful learners and reach their full potential.”

In 2020 St Joseph’s had around 450 students but this number is set to increase significantly in the coming years as it moves to a R-9 school. A $6.2 million development is currently underway to cater for this expansion and will include specialist STEM and arts facilities, together with food technology and digital media facilities.



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