Aldridge State High students (from left) Erin Kochel, Baiden Mills, Amelia Ferguson with Monnie and Jenny Vanderwolf with Toby, and together with Sweet Pea are part of the Equine Therapy, PAWS and reading programs that work on students and staff's wellbeing.
Aldridge State High students (from left) Erin Kochel, Baiden Mills, Amelia Ferguson with Monnie and Jenny Vanderwolf with Toby, and together with Sweet Pea are part of the Equine Therapy, PAWS and reading programs that work on students and staff's wellbeing. Boni Holmes

Leading kids to happiness

THE dog and pony show has been creating waves of happy endorphins for the students and staff of Aldridge High.

Two years ago Monnie the poodle was introduced by faculty support worker Janeen Greaves as therapy for students and staff coping with the daily demands of school life.

The demand for time with Monnie grew so much they introduced a second dog, Toby and then just recently, retired mare Sweet Pea.

"When we realised how successful the program was being with the kids and their self confidence and emotional well being it was a perfect opportunity to bring in the equine program," Ms Greaves said.

"It is great to have different opportunities for the kids and different pathways for them to work things out for themselves.

"Not everybody can sit in a classroom and figure this out."

 

Aldridge State High School - PAWS (Pet Assisted Wellbeing at School) - year 9 students (L) BJ Vanderwolf with Toby, Jenna Kemble, Janeen Greaves (community therapy dog handler) and Ella Franklin with Monnie.
Aldridge State High School - PAWS (Pet Assisted Wellbeing at School) - year 9 students (L) BJ Vanderwolf with Toby, Jenna Kemble, Janeen Greaves (community therapy dog handler) and Ella Franklin with Monnie. Alistair Brightman

Ms Greaves said they recently started a reading program that was unstructured and unlike the classroom was relaxed.

"The dogs sit on their laps and help them stay calm because reading aloud is not something kids do any more and certainly not something they usually do at home.

"They can chill out, pat the dogs and read a book of their choice."

She said patting a dog can reduce your stress by 11 percent, decreases the body's production of cortisol, increases your body's production of endorphins.

"There is a new study in America just released - patting a dog for 15 minutes in equivalent to eating a couple of pieces of chocolate.

"It has the same effect on your hormones and levels of happiness.

"I like that one because you don't get calories from patting a dog.

"It has been awesome for their social and emotional welfare."

Learning Enhancement Centre teacher Shane Kraut retired his mare to the school for the equine program.

 

Aldridge High teacher Shane Kraut shows Amelia Ferguson how to correctly lead Sweet Pea with confidence.
Aldridge High teacher Shane Kraut shows Amelia Ferguson how to correctly lead Sweet Pea with confidence. contributed

He said Sweet Pea was a former mustering horse but was in her golden years now.

"The program is to help students refocus when they are having a bad day," Mr Kraut said.

He said students needed to stay positive and resilient when guiding Sweet Pea through the exercises and obstacle course.

"Sweet Pea gets a big tricky and leans on them so they have to push through it and make sure the mare does as she is told and they are the leader."

Year 8 student Baiden Mills said it made him happy to have the animals around.

"It lets me focus," Baiden said.

Mr Kraut said Sweet Pea could pick up on students vibes.

"It helps them with their emotional regulation and they can get a chance to talk about their emotions and how they are feeling today and what they can do to change their way of thinking and lift their moods."

Ms Greaves said they had been working on students well being for quite a while and starting new initiatives with staff well being also.

"We have seen students come leaps and bounds," she said.

"It has helped some students mature and become more responsible and learn to be that leader and say 'I don't like what is going on but I am not going to freak out -- I am going to take a few breaths and think about what my best plan of action is, not just jump into melt down'."

She said it was about re-establishing their energy, reinvigorate yourself for the next part of your day.

"And they are pretty cute too."



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