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Social support is central to our psychological and physical wellbeing, and can buffer against the effects of stress and illness (Ozbay et al, 2007). When families, friends and communities reach out and offer support, it can have a profound impact on the lives of vulnerable people, including children and adolescents. A simple and effective way to offer that support to the people in your world is by asking, "are you OK?"

Thursday 14 September 2017 is R U OK? Day, a day which reminds us all that we have got what it takes to ask, "are you OK?", and support those struggling with life.

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Today’s high school students have grown up using smartphones and iPads, and most have had a digital footprint since birth.

In 2015, eighty-two per cent of teens were online, according to ACMA research, and 80 per cent used a smartphone. These figures rise every year. 

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A recent survey of 20,000 Australian school children found that one in four students have experienced bullying. Bullying is when people use words or actions to repeatedly, and intentionally harm another person and is often conducted by someone who has more power or influence than the victim. The bullying cycle perpetually disempowers the victim, who feels increasingly helpless.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics CensusAtSchool survey, longitudinal studies have consistently found strong links between school bullying and mental health problems, with victims at risk of developing depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Similarly, perpetrators of bullying are also at risk of developing depression, anti-social personality and substance use disorders[1].  

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This month, Brainstorm Productions were thrilled to be part of EduTECH Australia, an international conference and expo, which brings educational providers together to discuss, inspire and exchange ideas.  Attendees at EduTECH shared the latest in digital technology, e-learning, robotics, and virtual realities for an education environment.  There are exciting changes on the horizon, as the world of possibility opens up with ease of learning, access to new information and advance in IQ and skills.

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Loneliness is real and it affects people right across the country – in  fact a 2016 Lifeline survey found 60% of Australians often feel lonely. While loneliness for some is related to physical distance from people they can relate to, for many it’s the fact that they’re surrounded by people but feel a lack of connection and social support. The good news is there are ways of keeping loneliness and social isolation at bay for ourselves and others in our community. 

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Brainstorm Productions’ travelling theatre groups for schools have been captivating hundreds of thousands of children across Australia for thirty years. Here’s why. 

“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play,” says Philip Pullman, children’s author and winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Picture books, and later, fiction form the bedrock of our childhood. Many of us not only remember the exact picture from a favourite book we read before bed as a child, we remember the thoughts and emotions we experienced at that time. Picking up the book years later is like looking into a crystal ball, and being sucked back into our past. It’s a direct link to who we were as kids.

Likewise, we hear a song on the radio we haven’t listened to since childhood, and we can recall every word, and can anticipate the next note. 

Theatre is the ultimate immersive art form, targeting every sense simultaneously. It makes complete sense then that the only memory I have of the Year Two split classroom is sitting in the audience at Ross Hill Public School, in Inverell, watching Brainstorm Productions’ H-Team. My memory typically isn’t that great, yet I remember the buttery colour of the room. Where I was sitting in relation to the rest of the kids. Where the teachers stood. The bright colours the actors wore. The words they spoke. The tunes they sang. How I felt at the time. Just as you recall key details about the absolutely best Christmas you ever had as a kid, Brainstorm’s primary school productions leave a strong imprint on your memory.

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On Friday 17th March, Brainstorm Productions will be working with schools across the nation to encourage all students to ‘take a stand together' against bullying and violence. 

Brainstorm Productions is proud to join forces with Bullying No Way and the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner to promote zero tolerance to bullying. We give students who are struggling with feelings of anxiety and fear strategies to deal with face to face and online bullying and the courage to speak up and seek help. Research has also identified the significant negative impacts on those who bully and those who witness bullying. We use theatre to show the perpetrators the consequences of their behaviour and give them skills to change their negative habits into positive behaviours. 

With Brainstorm Productions shows sold out well in advance for the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence on Friday 17th March, many schools are running events leading up to the day or afterwards, so they can include theatre as part of their school‘s activities. Why? Read teacher testimonials by clicking here and discover why 99.7% of teachers would recommend Brainstorm Productions.

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One in four teenagers experience mental health issues. Around 550,000 young Australians between 16 and 24 live with anxiety and depression. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 24. 

High school years are fraught with real challenges, like exam stress, psychological and hormonal changes, and social changes. These challenges often precipitate mental illness.

Getting the right support for mental health issues is important. It is also important high school students get the tools and skills they need to face these problems, and cope with challenges more effectively. 

Research shows that deficits in problem-solving abilities lead to increases in depression and anxiety. Effective problem-solving skills help in both prevention and treatment of mental health issues.

In Brainstorm’s Wired, one adolescent deals with stress and overload, and the other with depression. The characters get the opportunity to choose their own adventure. One path leads to heightened emotional turmoil, and a feeling of losing control. When the characters take the alternative path, they find ways to address their challenges. The more a young person feels in control of their own life, and own their choices, the greater their resilience.

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School is back, after weeks of unstructured play, lounging around the swimming pool, and plunging into the ocean. Days with little to no structure are behind us, as parents prepare school lunches, and primary and secondary students pack their school bags, ready for school.

But how ready are students?

Associate Professor Stacey Walters, Associate Professor Leanne Lester and Professor Donna Cross suggest that transitioning into high school, or a new school can be a difficult time for some students.

According to their research, some of the key worries students have are:

how much homework they would have to complete

finding their way around or getting lost

classes being hard

unfamiliar teachers

and getting to class on time.

The Raising Children parenting website also suggests new students are worried about learning new routines, making new friends, and adjusting to increased workload.

So how can parents, teachers and educational theatre support young people starting at a new school for the first time, or transitioning into high school?

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