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The Best of Friends program comes to UOW

Pre-service teachers to deliver social and emotional learning program for kids. 

A new education program that focuses on the social and emotional needs of school-aged children will be delivered at the University of Wollongong (UOW) from early next year.

The Best of Friends® program, developed by iAccelerate resident Quirky Kid Clinic, is designed to be delivered in schools by teachers and school counsellors, and is aimed at children aged 7 to 11 years.

The 10-week program will be held at UOW’s Early Start in Term 1 and 2 next year (2018), with a group of final year Bachelor of Primary Education pre-service teachers as trained facilitators. At the same time, UOW researchers will undertake an independent evaluation of the program.

“The Best of Friends program helps students gain the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, show empathy for others, develop and maintain friendships and make good decisions,” Quirky Kid Clinic CEO and Principal Psychologist Dr Kimberley O’Brien explained.

“Research has shown that children who participate in social and emotional learning (SEL) programs have better academic results and reduced behavioural issues, and are less likely to be on a waiting list for public housing or receive public assistance. They are also less likely to have any involvement with police before adulthood or spend time in a detention facility.”

Dr Noelene Weatherby-Fell from UOW’s School of Education will be undertaking a research collaboration with the Quirky Kid Clinic under the NSW Department of Industry’s TechVouchers program, evaluating The Best of Friends® program’s efficacy and shaping its future development.

The Quirky Kid Clinic, a child, adolescent and family psychology clinic with offices in Austinmer and Sydney, is a resident of UOW’s iAccelerate program, the University’s purpose-built business incubator at UOW Innovation Campus.

Dr O’Brien said having access to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and support has sharpened the company’s focus and opened the doors to using new technologies to amplify the impact of its programs.

“The Best of Friends is Australian-made and aligned with the curriculum. In contrast other SEL programs come out of the United States and are out of context with our idiosyncrasies, our localised social context and needs,” O’Brien said.

“This study will greatly advance research and practice in relation to what really works when it comes to building social and emotional skills in Australia. By designing something that is tailored to our culture and our children we can dramatically improve the overall wellbeing of generations to come.”

The randomised trial will see children take part in The Best of Friends® through a series of 10 one-hour small group sessions delivered by a trained facilitator, with interviews and assessments before commencement and on completion of the program. Parents will receive weekly email updates with key program content so they can support their children as the program progresses.

The program is currently calling for participants, and parents are invited find out more and to register their interest online.

Posted in Education
Tagged: Early Start, Education