Do Our Students Benefit from These Experiences?
The Outdoor Education Programme at Somerset College has been in existence ever since the College first started back in 1983. Students have experienced time away from home in unfamiliar surroundings and have participated in a range of activities that have taken them out of their comfort zone and enabled them to further develop skills and friendships that they may not develop in the same way in the classroom. This year has seen the reintroduction of an Outdoor Education Programme to the Junior School and with our last Year Level returning from camp last week we are now able to look back on the camps this year to reflect on how successful and beneficial they actually have been.
At Somerset College, it is our intention to develop a programme that is sequential and that is age appropriate. Our Year 2 students experienced their first camp in the new indoor basketball courts, arriving at school at 5.00pm and sleeping overnight. They were involved in a range of activities including a movie night, stargazing and a special treasure hunt the next day.
Our Year 3 students attended a three day, two night camp at Tyalgum Ridge, Northern New South Wales. Their camp activities included bushwalking, archery, canoeing and a flying fox, that required students (and staff!) to climb a 12 metre high pole to reach the platform from where they were launched down the zip line. The highlight of the camp though was the Year 3 Talent Show, with many students taking the opportunity to stand up in front of their peers and share a talent they have.
Year 4 students visited Thunderbird Park for four days, three nights this year and were also involved in some great activities. Bush walking, horse riding, archery, and team building games/bush craft were just some of the many activities completed by these students. Students stayed in cabins and learnt to co-operate in smaller groups.
Year 5 students ventured to Midjinbil Hill again this year, for three days and two nights. Once again, activities were designed to take students out of their comfort zone and to develop co-operation skills and initiative. Whilst the rain may have dampened their clothing, it certainly did not dampen their spirits!
The final camp in Junior School is, of course, the Year 6 trip to Tasmania, the one camp that everyone looks forward to! Students head away for seven days and six nights and travel around the tiny island visiting many places. Whilst this camp is more of a ‘glamp’, students are certainly still given opportunities to experience things they may not normally experience.
When asked what the benefits are of an outdoor education programme, the list can be endless. For me though, these programmes place the student in an unfamiliar setting in which they need to trust themselves and those around them in order to survive. Students need to show independence and become responsible for themselves and their belongings. Students must co-operate with each other and learn to trust each other in order to reach a common goal. Quite often, as teachers, we will see a completely different side to some students when they are in this new setting. Some students come completely out of their shell and display much greater confidence than we may see in the classroom. New friendships are developed and often, these are not friendships that would have normally been pursued whilst at school. Most importantly though is the further development of resilience. Students very quickly realise that they need to move on when things may not go their way. They understand that it is okay to make mistakes and to fail and that the most important thing is about having a go and doing the best that they can.
Students, though, are not the only people to benefit from an outdoor education programme. Parents also learn that it is okay to let go and to allow their children to experience life away from home. Quite often as parents, we do our utmost to protect our children; however, in doing this we, at times, shelter them from reality. When we continually do things for them, we rob them from developing an independence that they will require in later life. Parents will often ask how old students should be before you start giving them this independence. My response is they are never too young. We need to encourage them, from a young age, to be prepared to do things for themselves and to take responsibility for their actions. By doing this, even from Pre-Prep, we are developing well-rounded children who will learn their place in the world that they live in.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the parents for their support of the outdoor education programme in the Junior School. I have received many positive comments about the camps this year and want to acknowledge the open-mindedness of our parent body towards this programme. Most importantly though, I would like to thank the Junior School teachers and assistants who gave their time to attend these camps. Without their willingness to be involved, these programmes would not exist.
I look forward to the continuation of this programme in 2017 and hope the students are looking forward to next year's camps just as much!
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