Seeing the forest for the trees – Woodridge SHS’s lesson in fostering resilience

Resilient. The word is a cornerstone of the Woodridge State High School ethos: Empowered, Resilient, World Changing.

And the value of this resilience became apparent in early-2022 when a series of challenges rocked the tightknit school community.

Woodridge State High School had eagerly anticipated 2022, the year they would celebrate 50 proud years of education and service to Logan.

However, the school year had barely begun when the combined impacts of the ongoing COVID pandemic, a tornado and major flooding flipped the foreseeable future on its head.

Ironically, these unique challenges that brought with them so much disruption also revealed an untapped level of resilience that empowered the school to rise above the setbacks.

Embodying this resilience the school displayed is its beloved liquidambar tree, or sweetgum – a hub for the school community and a symbol of identity.

Planted in 1972 to mark the school’s opening, the tree takes pride of place at the front gate next to the administration building and is regarded as the school’s best tree.

It’s an integral part of the school landscape, serving as a popular meeting place and a poignant backdrop for significant events including the annual photo of school leaders.

The wild tornado that tore through the school grounds on 1 February 2022 caused substantial damage to classrooms, fences, cars and trees, including the liquidambar.

This was compounded by the learning disruptions of COVID-19, and then a major flood in late February that affected many families after the Logan River burst its banks, inundating numerous homes.

By surviving the tornado the tree became inspiration for students and teachers, delivering a lesson in fostering resilience – to see the forest for the trees.

Tapping into the Woodridge community spirit, the school rallied to ensure it could reopen as soon as possible and minimise disruption to its more than 1,200 students, particularly its senior as they entered the critical phase of their education.

With the challenges came opportunity for the school to redefine the way it delivered its core business while remaining connected with the local community.

The school developed a compressed and flexible curriculum for its Year 11 and 12 students, allowing them to learn online from home for part of the week and seamlessly integrate with traditional face-to-face education.

The innovative curriculum was designed not just to meet immediate challenges but to build additional skills such as independent learning that would serve students well in their adult lives.

With a focus on the local community, the school leveraged existing partnerships in Woodridge to ensure students had what they needed, including computers and internet access.

The revised curriculum contested long-held community views on what education should look, sound and feel like, and supported students to become empowered, resilient and independent learners with the skills to access any pathway.

Challenging the status quo delivered impressive results.

Student academic outcomes showed year-on-year growth, more students are enrolling in higher education, and the school has one of the highest uptakes of Education Queensland’s digital learning system, QLearn.

Woodridge State High School’s response to the challenges thrown at them in early-2022 was recognised when they won the School Category in the 2023 Resilient Australia Awards.

And the tree? Well, despite advice to cut it down it’s still standing, battered but unbowed. 

A silent and enduring sentinel quietly exuding the values the school prides itself on, none more so than resilience.