Dogs are helping Wodonga primary students improve mental health through a new program launched on Monday.
Dogs Connect is partnering with the School Focused Youth Service at Gateway Health to improve the culture in Wodonga South Primary School and Melrose Primary School by focusing on student wellbeing and connectedness.
The program introduces a dog as a permanent member of the school's learning community.
Gateway Health School Focus Youth Service coordinator Sarah McQualter said the Dogs Connect program aligns with their strategies to promote good mental health and wellbeing for children in the community.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"For students to be able to learn, they need to be socially and emotionally well, and this is a program that supports that," she said.
"It's an innovative approach to increase the engagement of students in their education, particularly for students who may experience barriers."
Wodonga South Primary School principal Clint Eckhardt said they are looking forward to seeing the positive impacts the program will have.
"Currently the whole school community is extremely excited about welcoming Wodonga South's very own working Groodle, Meeka into the lives of our students," he said.
"It is fantastic that we have been able to enter into such a program where Meeka will further assist in enhancing the social and emotional skills of our students."
The Dogs Connect team design a program to meet the specific needs of the students and staff.
This involves a general level of connection across the entire community, and also includes addressing challenges such as anxiety, school refusal, hyperactivity, emotional escalation, and other trauma related impacts.
The main components covered in the program are empathy, awareness of others and self, self-regulation and reactivity.
"Since Dogs Connect launched in 2015, 20 regional Victorian schools have used the program to help their students feel more connected to their school environment, to help them to cope with negative emotions, to be calmer and happier and achieve deeper learning," Dogs Connect founder Grant Shannon said.