Last week many of our long-term Somerset students joined our new students to the College on Mt Tamborine, for a week of bonding combined with adventure and personal challenge. Our Outdoor Programme aims to assist in the slow and gentle journey from young child to young adult, a journey involving a transition from dependence to independence.
From being totally directed to needing initiative. From comfort to some discomfort. From working as an individual to needing to be part of a team.
In an age when every piece of the curriculum puzzle is scrutinised the value of an Outdoor Programme - a challenge many schools are avoiding - is consistently reaffirmed through the obvious growth from the students in their brief time away.
Four nights from home can be a little disconcerting for some of our young students. I have a suspicion that student’s homesickness is sometimes outweighed by parents missing their children. It is always comforting when a student feels the pangs of anxiety that a quick phone call home, followed by a little loving support from Mrs Rowe has the students smiling again and ready to embrace another night away from their comfy beds. I hope that by Friday last week, our new students feel like they have been at Somerset forever, and our older students, like they have made some new friends.
Based on their engagement in the activities, I certainly could not tell who was new and who was old, one new student made a point of telling me “everyone at Somerset is so friendly”. I guess starting at a new school can be a stressful time and I am proud of our students when I see them make everyone feel so welcome.
The weather gods shone on us very brightly this year, and while we did sweat more than in a Swedish sauna, at least we had very cool evenings to make sleep more possible. From the start on Monday, (where setting up a tent and sharing that tiny space with a new friend is a big challenge), to the adventure-based activity days on Monday afternoon, Tuesday and Wednesday, through to our house activity day on Thursday (where the student leaders join us in a day of activity), to sleeping, or in Ms Reeds meditation session, we were amazed. All students embraced the challenges with good humour, through sleep deprivation and tiredness that would have challenged an SAS recruit.
For students whose ages range from 11 to 12, the prospect of leaping from a perfectly solid platform, (eight metres off the ground into thin air on the Leap of Faith) or allowing yourself to be hoisted high above the ground to self- release on the Giant Swing, can be met with catatonic fear. Yet this year, all students attempted every activity and many overcame extreme fears to undertake the challenges, whether that be archery, mountain biking or damper making.
The final and greatest challenge for many students is the camp concert. The performances proceeded to mock reality television in a clever and entertaining way, often showing the ultimate in bravery. Everyone played a role and contributed, and that is all we ever ask.
It is not just the tree climbing activities that provide avenues for growth. Adventure activities challenge students to overcome fear and ultimately gain a real sense of accomplishment without the stress of competition but it is often the small things that provide some of the most valuable life lessons. Students setting the table for others, cleaning off their plates, pouring drinks for their table, cleaning the bathrooms, assisting others with their tents, planning their own clothes for the week, organising their toiletries, etcetera. While these skills are simple, they are often taken for granted, yet they do need to be learnt at some point. Often the consequences of being lackadaisical at home are not critical but on camp, the consequences can cause real discomfort and a lesson not easily forgotten.
This cohort of Year 7 were outstanding in their willingness to work together, undertake new challenges and embrace the camp experience.
Congratulations Year 7. You are delightful group and I look forward to enjoying your company for the next six years.
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