Every morning was an exhausting struggle for Queensland mother Natalie Ellis to get her 12-year-old son to go to school, where he would regularly get suspended for fighting and violence.
Exasperated and desperate, Ms Ellis was about to pull her son out of the school entirely.
But she said one small change in the past six months had led to “amazing” results for her son, not only at school but also at home.
“He’s a totally different child. He’s happier, more focused and more stable,” Ms Ellis said.
“He hated going to school — now he loves it — it’s amazing. I am very glad we didn’t leave and I’m so proud of him.”
During the coronavirus lockdown, teachers at Berrinba East State School in Logan, south of Brisbane, started thinking about other ways to address growing behavioural problems at the school.
Berrinba principal Stephen Kanowski said the lockdown allowed teachers to implement an idea many had wanted to try for some time, moving some classes — including music, maths, science, Indigenous studies and English — outside.
“We did have a high suspension rate, so the data was screaming at us to do things differently,” Mr Kanowski said.
“Vulnerable children still came to school during lockdown and that’s where we started this.
“We were told the kids still at school had to go on laptops and do the same thing kids at home were doing, but we knew that wasn’t going to work here and that’s where we developed the outdoor education program.”
Mr Kanowski said violent incidents had reduced by 75.5 per cent and suspensions had dropped by 40 per cent since lessons moved outside.
Teachers incorporate things found in nature like rocks, sticks and trees into lessons for music, math and science. (ABC News: Anna Hartley)