Sunday, April 21, 2024
16.8 C
Sydney

Teacher’s pet brings paws-itive vibes

Most read

Winnie the groodle takes a break from her busy school schedule with her fellow classmates. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Winnie the groodle takes a break from her busy school schedule with her fellow classmates. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

There’s no “wagging” school at St Joseph’s Primary, Oatley, thanks to a new member of the classroom.

Winnie the groodle, part of a world-first mental health and wellness program, has helped even the most anxious students feel happy back in school after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A first for Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS), the adorable canine was introduced nearly a year ago.

- Advertisement -

Winnie was brought in to help reduce stress, boost school attendance, build communication and interaction, teach leadership and responsibility, and support children affected by trauma.

The results have been so paws-ative, several other Sydney schools have also introduced wellness dogs.

The groodle, a cross between a golden retriever and poodle, was chosen for the breed’s intelligence and non-shedding coat, meaning Winnie can be around students and families with allergies.

She’s not a pet, though, spending each day following a structured program. She then goes home with a teacher each night.

Winnie is rostered for duty in the classroom and on the playground.

She is also used for supervised time with individual students and small groups as needed, as well as in literacy programs, where children are less self-conscious reading to a dog than to their peers or a teacher.

St Joseph’s Principal Kylie Brakel said Winnie’s debut was the culmination of many years of preparation and research.

Winnie the groodle is part of a world-first mental health and wellness program. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Winnie the groodle is part of a world-first mental health and wellness program. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

She’s proved invaluable, particularly coming out of lockdown and remote learning during the pandemic.

Ms Brakel said in the short time since Winnie had arrived, she had seen an enormous difference in the behaviour of students and staff alike.

“We wanted to think creatively about improving the wellbeing of the students, staff and families,” she said.

“It’s been great to see the smiles on everyone’s faces. You can feel the happiness and positivity Winnie has brought to our school.

“She has unconditional love for the students and teachers alike and really does enjoy being here as much as we enjoy having her.

“And that was never more obvious than when the students were coming back to school after many months of remote learning due to COVID.

“After so long away it was clear some of the students were quite anxious about returning to school and having Winnie here was a great way of taking any fears they had coming back.

“Winnie has now become quite the celebrity in the neighbourhood, and the students and their families love seeing her own her way to and from school.

“She has been such a positive influence here, it’s hard to imagine not having her around.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -