As the well-known saying goes “the simple things in life are often the best” and this is proven at The Southport School.
A photo recently dug out of The Southport School (TSS) archives shows junior students in 1912 enjoying a simple outdoor play experience. Today, the school’s students can be seen getting that same enjoyment from ‘the simple things in life’ through TSS’s The Rainforest program.
The program, coordinated by Learning Support teaching assistants Rosemary Wallace and Holly Nixon, is a strategy to promote student health as well as social and emotional wellbeing. Students are welcome in The Rainforest Mondays through Thursdays during both play breaks to enjoy a range of garden-related activities. Whether it’s planting, digging, raking, taking care of chickens, making paths or building garden beds, The Rainforest provides an opportunity for kids to have an active experience unlike anything offered by common ballgames played at break times, practising balance, dexterity and teamwork as they go. The idea was born out of The Prep School’s recognition of the value of providing outdoor learning spaces that engage students socially, creatively and physically.
Gardens and garden-based activities are becoming increasingly popular as vehicles for strengthening school communities and promoting student wellbeing, a trend driven by evidence from overseas and here in Australia. The research shows that school gardens break down social barriers and provide therapeutic benefits to students with learning and behavioural difficulties, whilst also assisting to address positivity and wellbeing.
“Based on our own experience and the feedback from other teaching staff and parents, the program has had a very positive outcome for our students overall,” Holly says.
In our competitive, digital world, getting back to our roots (pun intended) in the natural environment becomes increasingly important for young students.
“It really promotes friendship through teamwork and a mutual care and consideration of nature,” Rosemary says. “Students who attend The Rainforest during their break time do so at their own choosing, and it’s especially nice to see boys across year groups collaborating.”
The teaching assistants say the boys particularly love moving and manoeuvring bricks to build small walls, make pathways and garden borders.
“The goal is to encourage students to make independent decisions, whether it’s about site development or delegating tasks, which helps to foster student ownership and responsibility,” Holly says. “We’ve seen such an improvement since the program began – it really goes to show that the simple things often work the best.”