Last week many of our long-term Somerset students joined our new Somerset students 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 and the journey will involve 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 and many schools are avoiding the challenge of an Outdoor programme, the value 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 a 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. Hopefully by Friday last week our new students felt like they have been at Somerset forever and our older students feel like they’ve made some new friends.
Based on their engagement in the activities I certainly couldn’t tell who was new and who was old, one new student made a point of telling me that “everyone at Somerset is so friendly”. I guess starting at a new school can be a stressful time and I'm proud of our students when I see them make everyone feel so welcome.
The weather gods shone on us very brightly this year, and we did sweat more than in a Swedish sauna but at least we had some cooling showers in the evening to make sleep more possible. The whole of Year 7 can feel very proud of their efforts. The staff were astounded at the politeness and niceness of the group. Parents deserve a pat on the back as you can all feel very proud of your children as not one person gave us cause to consider our chosen career path.
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 Tuesday and Wednesday, through to our House activity day on Thursday where the student leaders join us in a day of activity, or sleeping, in Dr Brohier’s meditation session, we were amazed that 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 abseiling, or high ropes or eating vegetables can be met with catatonic fear, yet this year all students gave every activity an attempt and many overcame extreme fears to undertake the challenge of the abseil. That first step backwards over the cliffs edge always gives you an adrenaline rush, regardless of how many times you’ve done it.
The final and greatest challenge for many students is the camp concert and, as if we haven’t all seen enough reality TV, many of the concerts proceeded to mock these programmes in a clever and entertaining way. This often showed the ultimate in bravery as everyone played a role and contributed and that’s all we ever ask.
It isn’t just the abseil or the high ropes that provide avenues for growth. While adventure activities challenge students to overcome fear and ultimately gain a real sense of accomplishment without the stress of competition, it’s 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, and so on. 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 a delightful group and I look forward to enjoying your company for the next six years.
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