Summer of Challenges

31 January 2020

Welcome to 2020! A special welcome to all new students of Glenaeon, particularly in Kindergarten and Year 7, and to all continuing students and families. After a summer of challenges, we look forward to a better year.

Our hearts go out to all Australians affected by the shocking bushfires of the recent past, and to all families in our community who were directly affected, the School wishes you a speedy return to normality. 

I am pleased to report that the much loved apple orchard at Bilpin run by former Glenaeon teacher Cedric and Jenny Lethbridge, and site of many visits by Glenaeon classes and families over many years, was spared by the fires that tore through Bilpin in December. Our Outdoor Education team will be assessing the impact of the fires on our programs in that area of the Blue Mountains and surrounding areas.

How do we help children live with Trauma?

These recent events demonstrate how we all live with an element of trauma. The media brings us continual news of human suffering and environmental catastrophe so immediately in these times that we are continuously processing information challenging our sense of security and wellbeing. Our adult intellect can process this information by understanding causes and seeking solutions, and so balance our anxiety over the challenging news.

Primary School Age:

How much more difficult this processing is for primary school age children who do not yet have that understanding! The information of human suffering and fear of catastrophe goes straight into their feelings and can undermine their natural sense of being safe in a secure world. Advice from mental health professionals is for families to limit their primary school age child/ren’s exposure to news information that may cause anxiety and hence trauma. Turn off the news, and limit your child’s exposure to challenging information, is their simple advice for younger children. Reassurance that we will find ways through the challenges is important to the young child’s sense of security.

There are positive strategies we can use in helping support children in these times:

  • Warm Routines: maintaining a daily household rhythm is always so important in building a sense of the predictable and secure. The more secure and reliable, and loving, the young child’s world, the stronger their sense of trust in their surroundings.
  • Play: imaginative play enables children to transform their environment in creative ways, processing their experiences and working together with a common vision
  • The Arts: singing and music, drawing, craft and all the Arts help the child be an active creator, able to respond out of themselves and out of their feelings.

Our Class Teachers provide a rich curriculum of arts-infused instruction that embeds a creative response into every child’s learning. The daily rhythm supports the child’s sense of security and the creative outlets provide a sense of personal initiative.

High School Age:

For high school students, the message is more complex. They, and we as adults, all need an intelligent, well informed understanding of the issues, and strategies to make change. Positive stories of human courage and resilience in the face of adversity build our human capacity to carry anxiety and maintain wellbeing, even in challenging situations.

What is Glenaeon doing?

The school will be working to support a more informed awareness and active engagement with environmental issues among our high school students through forums, workshops and projects. We will be seeking ways to support the Rural Fire Service in their valiant endeavours.

Handwork Teacher Elizabeth Ellean is offering a weekly workshop for any student or teacher to make animal rescue wraps to support animals traumatised by the recent bushfires. These wraps could be knitted, crocheted, woven or sewn, depending on personal choice, and Elizabeth will facilitate: Tuesday lunchtime starting Tuesday February 4, in the Craft room.

Natural Education Seminar: The Power of Play in Nature 

As a contribution to the public debate about education and the role of schools in supporting children in the natural environment, we will offer a public seminar on the power of play in nature. Glenaeon has a long history of advocating for children’s play in nature as both developmentally beneficial and therapeutic in fostering a healthy, low stress childhood. In this moment when children’s sense of security in the natural world may be under threat, we need to foster public awareness of the power of play, and play in nature, in maintaining healthy children. We will soon be releasing the details of the distinguished speakers who have accepted our invitation to share their research and insight into the importance of children’s play in nature.

The Future?

An environmental crisis such as we have experienced must surely make us all reassess our priorities. Glenaeon has always been committed to care of the earth, to care of country, and working to restore a harmony with our natural environment. One hundred years ago Dr Steiner offered biodynamic agriculture to literally “heal” a damaged earth, and we have continued this tradition as part of our educational services ever since. We can only trust that the challenges of the past summer will spur a change of heart at every level of our society, and that with a greater commitment and sense of urgency, we can all look forward to a future of a healed, and a healthier earth.