Wellbeing at Tatachilla is a matter of soul

Once you move the heart, you can move the head.

This is the belief that underpins all teaching and learning at Tatachilla Lutheran College, where the principles of positive psychology are integrated into the fabric of college culture.

At Tatachilla, wellbeing is a part of daily life. It is not practiced through a single over-arching program, curriculum unit, state-of-the-art building or piece of technology. We take a grassroots approach by equipping our students with the skills to form lifelong relationships and live with purpose. We believe this is the foundation for lasting wellness in life.

Our students form positive social connections with each other through shared experiences, mutual support, a collective sense of acceptance and the creation of healthy boundaries.

They are further supported to accept all emotional experiences in life – including negative experiences – and learn from their mistakes. They are encouraged to do this in an environment of empathy and forgiveness.

At Tatachilla, we believe that when a child experiences wellness in their heart and soul, they are intrinsically more motivated, determined, fulfilled and cognitively capable: in short, when our children feel well, they grow and learn well.

As such, all students are given the opportunities they need to pursue their passions and make decisions that align with their soul. They are given the tools to develop as whole human beings – socially, emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually – and nurture a strong sense of self-belief and personal voice.

Tatachilla students are guided to use their God-given gifts and natural resourcefulness to discover their authentic selves and achieve personal excellence. Central to the success of this educational journey is exposure to settings and experiences that bring about positive emotion, mindfulness and a strong sense of belonging.

To that end, an important aspect of college life is time spent in our 3.4-hectare EcoClassroom Sanctuary, which has been modelled on the natural ecosystems that once existed in the McLaren Vale region, and which gives our students the opportunity to spend intentional time in the natural world.

The sanctuary – as well as our expansive grounds in the heart of vineyard country – have been shown to relieve anxiety, heighten feelings of calmness, restore capacity for concentration and facilitate deep joy.

The EcoClassroom Sanctuary is a contemplative space in which students are able to actively care for the college’s resident population of endangered bettongs, potoroos and wallabies and help re-vegetate the land by propagating seedlings and planting native trees and grasses. This connection to the earth contributes significantly to the emotional health of the students in our care.

Wellbeing is also facilitated through quality time spent with the college’s resident Golden Retriever, Misty. At the college we understand that interacting with animals is not only a powerful way of decreasing anxiety and feelings of loneliness, but also an important means of inspiring affection, empathy, compassion and attentiveness among young children and adults.

Now ten-years old and full of doe-eyed affection for all who cross her path, Misty is as wellspring of joy in the college community and a crucial a bridge-builder between students, staff and parents.

Unlike a formal service dog, Misty belongs to everyone. She roams freely on the college campus to mingle with students and staff at any time of the day, inside and outside the classroom, and at both school drop-off and pick-up times.

Her constant presence helps our students relax, communicate, express their emotions and feel safe. She attends on-site counselling sessions with students and families who need emotional support and also comes to assemblies, chapel services and college events.

Equally important in the life of the college is the Tatachilla professional counselling team. This team has a significant impact on the level of trust between students by leading a number of child-centred initiatives in mentorship, role-modelling, resilience-building, self-awareness, personal reflection and mateship. These initiatives empower our students to positively influence others and play a meaningful role in the community at large.

The counselling team also supports staff to create environments and routines that are sensitive to children who may have experienced trauma in their lives and who may need additional tools to self-regulate, bounce back from difficult situations and adopt a growth mindset.

Wellbeing at the college is constantly cultivated through experiences that generate hope, interest, joy, love, compassion, pride, amusement and gratitude. This gives the children in our care the spiritual foundation to live large in love, joy and lifelong learning.

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