It wasn’t all reading, writing and arithmetic for pupils at Sandgate and Hercules Road state schools last week, with their own version of Lockdown Lego Masters thanks to school chaplain Nathan Grady.
Nathan, who works with students and their families at both schools, says balancing traditional schoolwork with some fun is important to boost the mental health of his young charges as they grapple with the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19.
He says a similar challenge last year was popular with students from both schools, but they were particularly inspired by this year’s Olympics-themed event.
“Last year I let them build whatever they wanted to,” Nathan says.
“This year we’ve had a great response, with lots of entries.”
Students were asked to build Lego creations with an Olympics theme, take a photo and send it to him for judging with a prize of a voucher – to buy more Lego, of course!
Nathan says swimming and gymnastics proved popular among Lego builders and there were even some video entries where children moved their athletes and filmed them.
As chaplain for both schools, Nathan says his role is more important than ever, checking in with parents, teachers and vulnerable students to see if anyone needs a patient ear or more tangible help.
“If anyone’s struggling we can help them.”
Nathan’s a parent to two girls, one in year seven and one in year three, so can sympathise with the challenge of juggling working from home with home schooling.
When the community’s not in lockdown, he can be found organising Chappy Breakfasts and spending time with children who need a break from the classroom, filming interviews with teachers for Chappy TV, supporting parents, having a milkshake with students who’ve done something awesome or organising community pantries.
“We can be the link between the community and the school and link organisations like Encircle, churches and Foodbank with schools,” he says.
Among his favourite activities is coaching school sporting teams and seeing the students improve their skills.
He says the Scarborough girls’ Oztag team was doing particularly well at the All Schools Oztag competition, winning five of their six games on the Friday before the snap lockdown put an end to the carnival on the Saturday.
“I love coaching because I love kids growing in confidence,” he says.