At 15 weeks old, Frankie is the youngest staff member at Kalkie State School.
But there are a couple of differences between Frankie and other staff members who attend the school.
Frankie has four legs, a wagging tail and is the school’s newest therapy dog.
The little miniature Dachshund joins the school’s other therapy dog, Froki, in the classroom, where they help children with behavioural or learning difficulties.
Kalkie State School teacher, Tina Carruthers said the full-time canine classroom dogs acted as a four-legged teachers' aide and helped to calm anxious students, assist with reading by listening and act as writing inspiration.
“Last year we decided we’d help support our students in different ways, and we found Froki,” Ms Carruthers said.
“He was our first therapy dog and we rescued him from Fraser Coast.”
“This year we brought on Frankie, she’s our little Dachshund girl and is quite young and is more for the junior kids, while Froki, being the bigger boy, is for the senior kids.”
“It’s about the kids having something else to look after and just to give the kids some support in the classroom and outside of it.”
An animal journey
The dogs join a menagerie of other animals at the school, including chickens and guinea pigs.
Kalkie State School Principal Amanda Findlay said, the animals worked in unison with the school’s curriculum and helped make learning fun
“We have two guinea pigs, Piglet and Cosmo, the two puppies Frankie and Froki, seven chickens that we incubated and hatched, and some goldfish
“It works with our curriculum and it prompt responsibility, as our students are involved with washing them, caring for them, feeding them and there’s a lot of research lead by the students into the best shelter for them and the type of foods they need and what it is we need to have.”
“When the students were undertaking an audit of our waste they realised 50 percent of it was food waste, so they wrote a proposal around getting the chicken and that’s where we started the animal journey.”
“It opened up a little bit of a door to what we have.”
While the chickens and guinea pigs are a fantastic learning opportunity, they don’t offer the same level of social and emotional support as the school’s therapy dogs.
Research shows that therapy dogs can assist and support children with social and emotional learning needs, which in turn can assist with literacy development.
Principal Amanda Findlay said Frankie and Froki were providing an invaluable service and were a great distraction particularly during the stress and anxiety brought on from COVID.
“Our dogs start first thing in the morning with students who are reluctant to come to school, or are really nervous, particularly at the moment with COVID restriction where parents can’t come into the school grounds,” Amanda said.
“The dogs are a great way to get kids out of the car and they also go and do reading with the children, and are particularly helpful for reluctant readers as the dog is not judgemental – it’s just happy to sit there and listen.”