Choosing Courage at Newcastle Grammar School

Posted: 09 September 2020

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Primary School students at Newcastle Grammar School have embarked on the year with a new mission: to ‘Choose Courage for a kinder and braver world’. The theme is being adopted across Kindergarten to Year 6, as part of the School’s ongoing Positive Education programme. This theme builds on previous themes of ‘Boost Brain Power’ in 2019, and “We learn, we reflect, we act,’ in 2018.


At Newcastle Grammar School (NGS) we have deliberately chosen Positive Education which is the application of positive psychology, the science of human flourishing and wellbeing, in an educational context. It is about feeling good, functioning well and doing good.

At NGS we embed the principles of Positive Education, both inside and outside of the classroom. As a Visible Wellbeing School we have a language, lens and framework specifically for wellbeing which can be seen, heard and felt every day throughout the school.

We believe that for our students to be the best they can be they must be genuinely seen and valued. At NGS we have adopted a strengths-based approach and understand that we all have something unique and positive to offer. Our strengths energise us and when harnessed during times of challenge, help us to be more resilient and optimistic. Along with embedding the language of Positive Education into all areas of School life, the skills and mindsets to flourish are also explicitly taught in Positive Education lessons. These lessons offer opportunities for students to engage with empirically validated practices, activities and interventions from the field of positive psychology such as growth mindset, goal setting, deliberate practice, flow, mindfulness, optimism, active constructive responding, gratitude and resilience. Through tuning in to our wellbeing and making something that is invisible seen, heard and felt students are able to build their wellbeing literacy and capacity to be their very best.

This year, we knew that our students would return to school after observing the devastation of the 2020 bushfires wanting to explore ways that they could help. As our students already have a language and lens for wellbeing through our Visible Wellbeing approach we knew that ‘Choose Courage’ would resonate. We have used this not only as our Wellbeing focus, but also our Inquiry Learning focus in Primary. More widely, we use the language of ‘courage’ throughout the school to encourage our students to be the best they can be and to ‘Choose courage for a kinder and braver world…’


This year, students have been engaging in an inquiry-based programme which addresses the complex question of “How and why do we choose courage?” and addressing the following key conceptual understandings:

Courage can be seen, heard and felt in many ways and is different for everybody.

There are many ways people can choose courage, for example: facing a fear or obstacle; being true to self and others; persisting with a challenge; standing up and speaking out for what is fair; stepping outside your comfort zone; and bouncing back after adversity.

The theme of courage has been applied both inside and outside of the classroom and includes bushfire fundraising activities, STEM days, students working on the School’s sustainability projects, taking a risk and swimming and running at sports carnivals….and so much more.

Recently we worked in conjunction with Nihon University to decorate the hording around the construction site of their new campus in our local town. Students submitted colourful artwork under the theme of ‘Choose Courage’, which went on display just as the pandemic was escalating helping to boost the spirits of not only the builders working on the construction site but also everyone in our local community.

Throughout the year we will continue to further develop notions around growth mindset, character strengths and taking action to enhance and enrich our lives, communities and the world.


We hope that by ‘Choosing Courage’ this year students will be able to be at their best and flourish. Teaching students how to bring courage into their day-to-day school life can improve their learning, performance, and engagement at school. Teaching students to have courage in the classroom not only increases engagement and academic achievement, but it also helps students learn how to handle adversity.

There is no doubt the Primary theme for 2020 of Choose Courage is very appropriate within the current situation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With many factors contributing to feelings of confusion, fear, uncertainty, frustration and anger, an increase in anxiety levels among children and adults can be expected and the learning theme gives us an excellent vehicle to explore all these things in a constructive way.

Along with ‘Choosing Courage’ we are also promoting spreading love, sharing kindness and expressing gratitude. This theme has allowed us to explore courage in a way that not only increases our own sense of self awareness, but helps us build compassion for others and develop a spirit of service to make the world a kinder place.

Long term

In its simplest form, courage is the willingness to act in the face of fear, uncertainty and doubt and is a cognitive ability that can be strengthened by experiencing it. We hope that this learning theme will encourage our students to step outside of their comfort zone and empower them to act and give them ability to manage fear and anxiety in order to maintain the ability to act. We hope that this will result in our students to grow up to be confident, resilient and self-aware adults.


Author: Marnie Thomas, Head of Positive Education, Newcastle Grammar School

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