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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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Our urge to tell stories is innate, and takes many different forms. Gossip. Literature. Films. Television. Theatre. Our insatiable need for stories is driven by a need to understand and connect with others. It’s also a way to understand the world around us. As psychotherapist Anthony de Mello states: 'The shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story'.  

The power of fables

Storytelling has been used since ancient times to educate, entertain and connect. People once sat around the fire, sharing stories with strong moral and educational values. These stories, known as fables, were told and retold over generations. 

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How Theatre in Education Helps with Student Empathy 1

Recent psychological research suggests that empathy is the key ingredient in forming positive relationships. Empathy helps us connect with others, and understand their thoughts and feelings. This helps us know how to respond and engage with others.

What is empathy?

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Cyberbullying Australia 1

By Amy Williams - Guest Contributor  

As teachers, the battles we are fighting these days, together with parents, to keep children safe, can feel impossible to beat at times, due to the internet which, along with the good, has also brought the bad. From inappropriate content to online predators, there are risks to kids being allowed to surf online.

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RUOK

New Survey Reveals Aussies Spend more time with Screens than Quality Time with Family and Friends

A NEW national survey from R U OK? has revealed Australians spend an average of 46 hours of their weekly downtime looking at their TVs and digital devices, compared to an average of six hours engaging with family and friends.

The suicide prevention charity has also revealed that around half of Australians spend two hours or less of their weekly downtime connecting with the people who matter to them.

R U OK? Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis said the research has highlighted that we’re more intimately acquainted with our devices than the highs and lows of our families’ and friends’ lives. 

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13RUOK Vito Sam2

As the R U OK? School Partner, Brainstorm Productions works closely with national suicide prevention charity R U OK? to help Australian school students understand the importance of reaching out and talking to their friends and classmates about life’s ups and downs.

Brainstorm Productions provides live in-school theatre programs to 350,000 students each year. The programs are designed to address student wellbeing and to provide students with day-to-day skills and strategies to deal with bullying, cyberbullying and violence. As part of the in-school programs, students are also provided with information about R U OK? and how to find conversation tips, helplines and lots of conversation resources on the R U OK? website. 

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5 Reasons your School Should be Booking our High School Productions

1.) Reward Positive Behaviour

As more and more schools move from punishment to positive disciplinarian approaches, theatre can be used as a highly constructive reward. Not only will high school students view this as a fun incentive for making well-balanced choices, but Brainstorm Productions theatre programs also reinforce and support school-wide behavioural expectations including anti-bullying, anti-violence, cyber safety and respectful relationships, to name just a few. 

And at a cost of only $6 per high school student*, including comprehensive teachers’ resources, a Brainstorm Productions performance rewards schools too.  

2.) Help Empower Students

Schools and teachers are becoming increasingly entrusted to help equip students with the social and emotional skills required to make positive contributions to society. 

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Wired Generation Next

 

The origin of the ancient art form theatre first appears in the 3rd century BC and was used in festivals that honoured the Greek god Dionysus. Digital citizenship, on the other hand, was only established during the 1990's technology boom, as a way to help structure what was considered appropriate and inappropriate use of technology.

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 STAAR Awards

Brainstorm Productions has been awarded top honours at the 2016 STAAR Awards, held as part of the 2016 ‘No 2 Bullying’ Conference. The organisation was presented with the ‘Stop School Bullying Award’ by the 2016 STAAR Awards Committee and the Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association for their outstanding range of bullying programs. 

Judged by a panel of anti-bullying experts, Brainstorm Productions was chosen for their exceptional commitment to bullying prevention and for their outstanding contribution to anti-bullying education in schools. Brainstorm Productions uses live educational theatre in primary and high schools to connect and enact change with a range of bullying and cyber bullying programs.

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eSafety Blog pic

Research shows that one in five Australian young people aged 12 to 17 have been the target of cyber bullying. While Brainstorm Productions have been touring their student wellbeing programs for over 30 years, their first cyber safety theatre productions started touring in 2003 (yes, before Facebook!). In the beginning Brainstorm Productions had two eSafety programs that tackled issues surrounding MySpace, text messaging and e-mail bullying. 

Over time this has developed into a wide-range of shows tackling cyber bullying, how to stay safe using different forms of online technology and social media sites, keeping personal information private, reporting cyber bullying, how to balance online time, online gaming and chatting, digital reputation, sexting, offensive online behaviour, digital citizenship, trolling and the serious risks of unwanted contact with strangers; with Brainstorm Productions programs reaching over 350,000 students every year. 

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National Day of Action 8

Friday 18th March 2016 marks the sixth National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. National statistics show that one in four, Year 4 to Year 9 Australian students (27%) report being bullied every few weeks or more* and the impact can be far-reaching. 

Bullying can happen to anyone and affects students in different ways; from school involvement to relationships with family and friends as well as student wellbeing, including feelings of self-doubt, loneliness, anxiety, stress and sadness. Brainstorm Productions approach uses live theatre to engage directly with students – be it bullies, the bullied or bullying bystanders. 

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Being Brave R U OK

Taking the first step and asking someone if they’re OK can take a bit of courage, especially for younger children. How do I ask it? What do I do if someone isn’t ok? What if a friend is really sad? These are just some of the questions that might be swirling around a child’s head. But learning how to overcome this uncertainty can have a profound effect, with children getting to share an emotional connection and learning how to navigate some of life's challenges.

Being Brave:

Brainstorm Productions performance Being Brave helps young children to understand that asking the question “Are you okay?” and taking the time to listen are only the first steps. While some situations and problems can be overcome by children talking to one another, more serious issues must be solved by involving an adult. Students are urged to help each other by seeking advice from a teacher, parent, school counsellor, a trusted adult or by phoning the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. Many children are embarrassed to say they are experiencing difficulties and Being Brave encourages children to learn how to talk about their problems and show their feelings in an appropriate way.

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Educational Theatre

Brainstorm Productions 2016 tour launched yesterday, Wednesday 27th January, so we thought we’d give you a sneak peek at the hard work that goes into preparing for a year-long tour of ten different school theatre productions. 

The journey begins in early January and the first day of rehearsals is always positively electric. The team is brought together in a 100-year-old country hall near Byron Bay in NSW. The large space is used to introduce the team and for general horsing around to relieve any nerves. There’s dancing, singing, miming and lots of drama (of the acting kind of course!).

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Anti Violence School Program

Brainstorm Productions performs to primary and high school students every day of the school year, including their anti violence school program ‘Sticks & Stones’. We talk to this year's Sticks & Stones team, Kieren and Michael, about how they get students talking about what is acceptable behaviour and what’s not, why they love their job and some expert tips on breaking into acting. 

 

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Sticks and Stones

Horrifying domestic violence statistics in Australia show that one in six women have experienced violence from a current or former partner, sixty three women have been killed by family violence this year and childhood exposure to partner violence increases the likelihood of intergenerational violence.

With the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently pledging $100 million to tackle domestic violence, including $5 million for school education programs, and with White Ribbon Day happening on 25th November, we talk to three inspiring high schools that are rewriting the script and helping students to develop respectful relationships using theatre-based education.

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With the launch of ‘The Wellbeing Framework for Schools’ by the NSW Education & Communities Department in April 2015, more and more schools are developing initiatives that are aimed at empowering students to take better care of their wellbeing; as well as that of others. 

One school that’s had a long-running student wellbeing program is All Saints’ College Bathurst. Their successful approach is focused on teaching skills that students can use in their everyday life, not just about conveying information on what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour. One example of this is incorporating Brainstorm Productions anti-bullying and violence prevention program ‘Sticks & Stones’. 

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R U OK 2015

At Brainstorm Productions, we did lots of important and substantial things to support R U OK?Day 2015. That’s because we believe conversations do make a difference. We believe we can help each other by taking the time to ask, “are you ok?” We believe that having a meaningful conversation is powerful. And of course, R U OK? is such an inspiring message with potentially life-changing consequences.

We also loved this year’s campaign drive to encourage people to give a big old-fashioned thanks to someone who had asked “are you ok?” when they needed help through one of life’s ups or downs. It was a great way to give our activities focus and help students reflect on the types of conversations that can be helpful to a friend who’s not doing so well.

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Thanks for asking 1

Communication plays such an important role in human interaction. A heartfelt note is always a great way to let someone know how you feel, as it carries with it sincere words, personal thoughts and our deepest gratitude. In the days of Snapchat, text messages and twitter, a thank you note might seem old-fashioned – but R U OK? is bringing it back with their 2015 campaign ‘Thanks for Asking’.

Thanks for Asking is all about celebrating the power of a conversation. By encouraging people to give thanks for someone who’s helped them weather one of life’s storms when they needed a bit of support, it will help prove that conversations do make a difference. Whether you’re the writer or the recipient, it’s an opportunity to reflect on how we can positively influence the lives we touch.

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Buddies 2 Anti Cyberbullying at School

What is the number-one social issue for students across Australia? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics CensusAtSchool survey, reducing bullying in schools [1]. 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 [3]. With a long history, over 30 years, Brainstorm Productions helps more than 350,000 students across Australia each year with anti-bullying, cyber bullying and wellbeing education programs via a range of live in-school theatre productions. 

The use of theatre in education can help unite students in a shared experience and is a great springboard for opening up discussion and assisting with change; be it bullying, peer pressure, binge drinking and violence. Research and evaluation have revealed that the ‘overwhelming majority of students demonstrate enjoyment and enthusiasm through watching educational theatre, are receptive and listen attentively, and can correctly identify the educational messages being portrayed’ [2]. In this way, theatre gives strong and emotional lessons to students, whilst being entertaining.

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How does theatre help deliver the anti bullying message in schools, and is it effective? Australia's largest independent women’s website, Mamamia, talked to Brainstorm Productions co-founder Jenny Johnson about bullying, cyber bullying and how Brainstorm Productions uses theatre to bring about effective change and make a real difference in kids lives. Below is a full transcript of this interview:

 

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