At Wilderness School we believe that the wellbeing of each girl is vital for her personal and academic success. This is central to the school’s mission “To enable each girl to be the best that she can be throughout her life”.

We talk about the ‘whole’ girl and act so that each girl can flourish by being taught the skills to live a life of purpose, fulfillment and meaning. By applying a research based approach to wellbeing across the school, we empower girls with the necessary tools to flourish.

Science of Positive Education

The movement of Positive Psychology has been growing in response to the need of shifting our thinking from how people survive to how they can truly flourish in life. Positive Education has been growing in its development and application in schools, which provide the key environments to educate the whole child. Specifically, Positive Education seeks to combine principles of Positive Psychology with best-practice teaching (with educational paradigms) to promote optimal development and flourishing (positive mental health) in the school setting (Norrish, Williams, O’Connon & Robinson, 2013). Teaching wellbeing to students so they can flourish in life has a direct impact on academic success and needs to be the focus of every educator whose role is instrumental in helping each student grow and develop.

Wellbeing is based on the science of Positive Education

  • Positive Education seeks to combine principles of Positive Psychology with best-practice teaching and with educational paradigms to promote optimal development and flourishing (positive mental health) in the school setting (Norrish, Williams, O’Connon & Robinson, 2013).
  • Student wellbeing is central to learning and has a direct impact on academic performance (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, and Schellinger, 2011).
  • Skills and mindsets that promote positive emotions, positive relationships, resilience and character strengths can be explicitly taught and assessed by schools (Green, Odes and Robinson, 2011).
  • A core proponent of all conceptualisations of 21st century schooling is the need for education to develop the ‘whole student’ through social, emotional, moral and intellectual development (Cain& Carnellor, 2008; McCombs, 2004; Noddings, 1995; Palmer, 2003).
  • Schools play an increasing important role in assisting youth to develop cognitive, social and emotional skills (Waters, 2011).
  • Optimal wellbeing is a multi-dimensional and holistic concept, and included both hedonic (e.g., positive emotions and emotional stability) and eudaimonic (e.g., self-esteem, growth, meaning) components (Norrish, Williams, O’Connon & Robinson, 2013)
Whole School Approach

Wilderness has applied Positive Education across the school, starting with strategic planning and data collection to implementation of a school wide wellbeing program. The Positive Education curriculum is scoped and sequenced and is linked to the School’s mission “To enable each girl to be the very best throughout her life” with a direct correlation to the core values of the school - values which were developed in 1884 by the founders of the school, the Brown sisters. Our goal is for students to learn and apply the necessary life skills to help them develop their true self. 

Flourishing means optimal wellbeing and has three components:

  • rewarding and positive relationships
  • feeling competent and confident
  • believing that life is meaningful (Diener, 2010)

Wellbeing refers to the social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual development of each individual and is key to effective learning. Our vision of wellbeing is promoted and taught through creating an inspiring social, emotional and physical learning environment where each girl flourishes. The skills of wellbeing are taught through the curriculum and the many varied activities of school life, having a whole school approach. Students are taught different wellbeing strategies (e.g. gratitude, stress management, character strengths, resiliency, mindfulness, conflict resolution) giving them tools in their tool bag to help their personal development. Optimal wellbeing is a multi-dimensional and holistic concept, and includes both hedonic (e.g., positive emotions and emotional stability) and eudaimonic (e.g., self-esteem, growth, meaning) components (Norrish, Williams, O’Connon & Robinson, 2013).

Wilderness has implemented a whole school systems approach to wellbeing within the school’s strategic direction with a Positive Education model. Instead of having solo approaches to wellbeing throughout the school based on the effort of individual teachers, the focus is written in the School’s strategic plan to ensure consistent application and transparency. Our Positive Education model at Wilderness encompasses the school’s four values:

Positive Self
Learning and practising habits for being a resilient, vibrant and spiritually aware self who is confident in themselves and appreciative of others.

Positive Relationships
Increasing social and emotional skills in order to create and promote compassionate, kind, friendly and hospitable individuals who form and maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships.

Positive Learner
Developing individual potential through being a creative, independent and cooperative learner who is a seeker of excellence and success.

Positive Citizen
Understanding and serving something greater than yourself as a responsible, respectful and generous global citizen and leader, who acts with integrity for a socially just world and a sustainable future for the Earth.

This framework, which builds a culture where positive behaviour and developing a ‘true self’ is taught, is embedded across the whole school because schools are now seen as institutions where their role extends beyond academics competence to further preparing the ‘whole child’ (Huitt, 2010). The primary focus of this model at Wilderness is that all girls are flourishing in life.

Pastoral Care

One of the special aspects of a Wilderness education is the sense of belonging that girls experience. Ours is a community where teachers, girls and families work together and value each other.

Pastoral Care at Wilderness strives to provide each girl with the social, emotional and educational support so she can flourish and be the best she can be throughout her life. We believe pastoral care support enables each girl to grow and develop into her true self where every girl experiences a sense of belonging.
The aim of our pastoral care focus is to create an environment where each girl feels safe, connected, valued, listened to and cared for. The main goal of our pastoral care support is to build genuine relationships with each girl so her individual needs can be met and supported.  

We are committed to providing the best pastoral care support for all our students. Unlimited kindness and respectful relationships are the foundation of our pastoral care approach where the uniqueness of each individual girl is embraced and celebrated. Pastoral care involves having authentic conservations with our girls, helping them to grow with positive self-esteem, confidence and resilience while addressing areas of concern through appropriate interventions. Every staff member is involved in pastoral care, working in co-operation with parents to provide the best support for our girls to adapt to the changing demands of the world.


Every girl belongs to a House where she can feel connected to the School and Wilderness community. The focus of our pastoral care process at Wilderness is through each House where the Heads of House oversees each girls’ growth and development in that respected House. Relationships are developed among the girls in House so they have a sense of being known and belonging. Our House structure facilitates every girl to develop friendships, participate in different activities to connect girls across the year levels and also helping girls to develop their leadership skills. The Houses were named after plants that were found around the grounds of our founders' home; Amaryllis, Antholiza, Carob, Cedar and Sparaxis.

Girls in Years 7-12 are scheduled into a Form group and assigned a Form Teacher. The Form Teacher is the daily pastoral support teacher, working closely with the Head of House who oversees and manages the House. Each Form Teacher supports a girl’s wellbeing where teachers, girls and families work together and value each other. The Form Teacher, Head of House, Head of School and Director of Wellbeing & Positive Education also work together to positively support every girl. 


True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.

Sheri L. Dew

All girls are encouraged to undertake leadership roles throughout their time at Wilderness School. The academic program is at the heart of our daily activities, but life at Wilderness offers much more. Through the wider curriculum, students have the opportunity to find new interests and talents, broaden their circle of friends beyond their year level, adopt leadership positions and develop self assurance.

Every girl benefits from the experience of being in a position of leadership. The roles may be formally recognized, for instance Year 9 Community Service Representative, Vice-Captain of the Netball Team or Stage Manager of the Drama Production, or more subtly, as leader of a reading discussion group in the classroom, operating as a mentor for a younger student or captaining a team during physical education. All roles are equally valued. Being an effective leader requires students to develop qualities and skills in themselves and to nurture those of others. Leadership at Wilderness is not only about formal positions, our students are encouraged to be leaders in the classroom, through their actions in the playground, through their support for others or their involvement in sporting, cultural or local community events.

While students are leading they are also developing self-confidence and decision-making skills, learning about effective negotiation and teamwork, setting goals, enthusing others, learning how to win and lose graciously, making new friendships, improving their public speaking skills and much more. There are many opportunities at Wilderness for girls to experience leadership.

Girls can participate in a range of leadership courses and workshops. Clubs cater for interests as diverse as chess, writing, the environment, social justice and debating. Student leadership is also encouraged through class representation, the House system and student committees in the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools. All these leaders are elected by the girls themselves.

Sport provides opportunities for personal development. Girls can choose from cricket, tennis, volleyball, rowing, soccer, hockey, netball, water polo, basketball, lacrosse, athletics, swimming, gymnastics and cross country running. We encourage every girl to participate at a level appropriate to her ability and to be able to evaluate her performance both at a personal and team level. Sport allows all our students, whether Captain or team player, to develop qualities of commitment, teamwork and competitiveness as well as a positive attitude to personal fitness. We recognize that leadership qualities can be demonstrated by the all girls when given the right opportunities.

There are many ways in which to gain leadership experience at Wilderness. Training for leadership occurs at various points in the academic curriculum from Reception through to Year 12, in units designed to enhance the growth of individual awareness, self esteem and responsibility. When girls lead, they develop self-confidence, decision making, effective negotiation and teamwork skills.

Both formal and informal opportunities arise through our core academic curriculum as well as through participation in co-curricular activities:

  • Young Leaders Day
  • Eastern Schools Leadership Group
  • Buddies with an Independent Boys School
  • House Captain Program
  • WJSSC Leadership Program
  • Student Foundation
  • Form Captain
  • Active for Life
  • Community Care
  • Environment
  • Green Team
  • School Image
  • Junior Library
  • Student IT
  • Student Curriculum
  • Peer Support
  • Social Justice
  • Community Service
Character and Wellbeing

At Wilderness we believe that students benefit from being explicitly taught about wellbeing and their character strengths. Every student in Middle School attends a weekly Character and Wellbeing class, which covers a variety of topics so that our students can learn skills to flourish. The curriculum is based on the latest research regarding wellbeing and neuroscience, including teaching Mind Lab which is focuses on the development of thinking abilities and life skills through strategy games. Character Strengths are taught and assessed as each individual has unique qualities in how they approach and deal with life. Character Strengths are the back bone of Positive Psychology and help students build upon their strengths, while studying other role models who exhibit specific strengths.

The aims of Character and Wellbeing Education is to provide:

  • a safe environment to further develop each girls’ understanding of who they are and how to develop their character strengths and necessary life skills so they can flourish
  • the opportunity for each student to study Positive Psychology and topics related to personal wellbeing
  • practice for students to further develop their personal skills such communication and collaboration skills and apply personal wellbeing concepts

A variety of teaching strategies caters for different learning styles and open-ended learning experiences ensure that all students are able to benefit from the curriculum according to their interests and talents.

Thinking & Learning

We created this unique curriculum in 1996 to ensure that all Wilderness students have the opportunity to become independent, life-long thinkers and learners. The curriculum is regularly refined as new neuroscientific research about the nature of intelligence and the brain's natural learning systems emerges. We work closely with schools around the world that, like Wilderness, have been accredited by the University of Exeter as an International Thinking School.

Thinking and Learning complements and enriches the school's curriculum from Reception to Year 12 and addresses three main strands:

  • Thinking skills, strategies and dispositions that enable students to process information more effectively
  • Learning skills and strategies that enable students to learn and study more efficiently
  • Reflecting and metacognitive strategies that enable students to plan, monitor, evaluate and adjust their learning goals.

A variety of teaching strategies caters for different learning styles and open-ended learning experiences ensure that all students are able to benefit from the curriculum according to their interests and talents.

Identifying the attributes of successful learners has emerged as a key issue in educational research during the past decade. Accordingly, at Wilderness, we have implemented the Habits of Mind, a set of 16 intelligent behaviours, developed by Art Costa and Bena Kallick.

A Habit of Mind is defined as having a disposition towards behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known. The Habits of Mind, when practised regularly, enable students to become more confident, productive and successful learners.
16 Habits of Mind »

At Wilderness, we believe strongly that by offering students a comprehensive, sequential and open-ended curriculum in Thinking and Learning, they will be able to become autonomous learners who are confident, creative problems solvers and decision makers.

Thinking and Learning curriculum, which is part of every girl's program, assists in the development of higher order thinking skills and the ability to interrogate and evaluate information.

Girls work collaboratively and cooperatively and are encouraged to strive for the personal best in their study and in many other activities available to them.

Fostering growth of self expression and the development of artistic, creative and critical sensibilities, girls can enter in a variety of competitions, providing them with the opportunity to achieve their own excellence.

Some of the areas in which girls participate:

  • Tournament of Minds
  • Future Problem Solving
  • Solar Boats Challenge
  • Young Achievers
  • National Youth Science Forum (Rotary)
  • ICAS Science Competitions
  • CREST Awards (CSIRO)
  • Siemens Science Experience (Rotary)
  • Oliphant Science Awards
  • Poetry & Literature
  • Simpson History Prize
The Resilient Student

The Wilderness Resilience curriculum focuses on the mental health of students and is designed to increase their ability to face and deal with adversity. Work on the Resilience curriculum began in 1999 after discussions among senior members of staff and shared professional readings on the subject of depression in young people. After much research, consultation with students and investigation into similar school-based programs in Australia and overseas, the first aspects of the curriculum were implemented in 2000 with Year 9 and Year 10 classes. Today, it is taught in the Junior School, R-6, and at important developmental stages in the Middle and Senior Schools.

The Resilience curriculum addresses mental health issues, promotes optimism and equips students with strategies for dealing with adversity. The concept of Emotional Intelligence is taught and its implications for learning, working and living are explored. Age-appropriate resources such as self-help books, poetry, prayers, movies, websites, quotations and pop music are also incorporated into the curriculum. There is on-going professional learning and refinement of our curriculum by staff, as new research emerges in the fields of mental health, resilience and well-being.

At Wilderness, we believe strongly that a comprehensive approach to building resilience and addressing mental health issues is critical to the development of positive young minds.


Contact & Resources

Please feel free to contact Trina Cummins our Director of Wellbeing & Positive Education about our programs and research.  Trina has spoken on the topic of Wellbeing & Positive Education at numerous speaking events and is actively adding to the field of Positive Education research.

Trina Cummins, MEd – Director of Wellbeing & Positive Education

Trina Cummins is Director of Wellbeing & Positive Education at Wilderness School, Adelaide where she is a member of the Senior Leadership team and oversees Positive Education and Wellbeing across the whole school (ELC-12). She has a Masters of Educational Psychology and a Graduate Diploma of Education from University of South Australia, Bachelor of Arts–Psychology from Flinders University and a Professional Certificate in Education (Positive Education) from University of Melbourne. She has held leadership positions in other schools including Head of PBIS (Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports), Middle and High School Counsellor, and Behaviour Specialist (Special Education). In 2001 she was awarded the USA National Good Samaritan Award for her work with students. She also developed and taught a specialised learning program called “Learn Right” through Saturday Academy at Portland State University, Oregon.




  • Wilderness is undertaking research regarding the wellbeing of students and how to implement Positive Education school wide. Work is being done in collaboration with leading experts in the field and universities. 
  • Wilderness is a member of the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA). The vision is PESA is to lead and promote the science of wellbeing and positive psychology, enabling all students, school and communities to flourish.
  • Feel free to look at the VIA website to learn about character strengths with the VIA Strengths Survey and profile.
  • Mindfulness in Schools program, .b program, teaches students how to focus and pay attention and increase their awareness of what is happening in their lives.
  • Kimochis is a character and social-emotional learning program. The goal of this program is to teach positive habits so that students can lead happy and successful lives. Kimochisuses toys with feelings and the curriculum is based on research that shows a strong social-emotional learning foundation is essential to academic and life success.
  • The Jubilee Centre is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre focusing on character, virtue and values in the interest of human flourishing. The Centre is a leading informant on policy and practice in this area and through its extensive range of projects contributes to a renewal of character and values in both individuals and societies.
  • The Habits of Mind are dispositions that empower creative and critical thinking.  Habits of Mind are performed in response to those questions and problems the answers to which are not immediately known. We are interested in observing how students produce knowledge rather than how they merely reproduce knowledge.
  • Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck who coined the term fixed- growth mindset.
  • Positive Psychology Center, Martin Seligman, Karen Reivich & James Pawelski (University of Pennsylvania). 
  • The Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (Stanford University).
  • Wilderness is a member of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). IPPA was founded in 2007 with a tri-part mission:
    • To promote the science of positive psychology and its research-based applications.
    • To facilitate collaboration among researchers, teachers, students, and practitioners of positive psychology around the world and across academic disciplines.
    • To share the findings of positive psychology with the broadest possible audience.




You may like to explore the wellbeing websites listed below:

Parent Resources

At Wilderness we are constantly striving to ensure that we remain aware of and alert to the pressures and social norms that our girls face at all stages of their development. We share with our parents the responsibility to adapt to and respond to the many challenges our girls face and to give them the strategies and knowledge to make the best decision for safe, healthy and fulfilling lives. We believe a truly successful education is achieved in partnership between home and school and encourage parents to regularly view our SchoolTV platform and participate in our Raising Amazing Girls program, both which provide our parents with access to best speakers from around Australia who share their expertise to support our endeavours to build resilience and wellbeing in all our girls. 

School TV   Raising Amazing Girls