“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” Rachel Carlson
Every year, each Class of students and educators at Blue Gum Community School embarks on an extended Outdoor Education adventure. Camps are a compulsory part of the curriculum for students from Kindergarten to Year 10; they connect students with the Australian bush environment and Australia’s rich physical and cultural inheritance. Experiences offer students an authentic context for meaningful learning and personal growth. The adventures are designed to include elements of serious challenge alongside significant time for reflection and relationship-building; to introduce students to new experiences beyond their ‘comfort zone’; and to trigger powerful and joyful engagement in just being with their Class community. While we believe that challenge generates growth, this is balanced by an over-riding imperative that each student experiences success… and celebrates it with peers! Interdependence is key. Outdoor Education Camps are the perfect canvas for learning.
On Camp, students have an opportunity to be CREATIVE by:
- making things from natural objects – stone stacks, paint brushes, paint, sculptures, rafts – the opportunities are endless;
- designing menus that cater for the community and take into account the cooking facilities available;
- drawing on their imagination to devise their own games – when given time to slow down, to be, to play; &
- reflecting on their experiences in multiple ‘languages’ or forms of expression, e.g. sketching/clay/poetry.
On Camp, students have an opportunity to be CAPABLE by:
- identifying clothing/equipment required, as well as any personal apprehensions;
- teaming up with others to erect tents, safely light/maintain a camp fire etc;
- working through the challenges that arise, having the opportunity to look at new challenges differently, and devising strategies (with support if needed) to tackle them;
- spending time away from their ‘home family’ and consequently increasing the bonds of their ‘school family’;
- trying new experiences and developing new skills;
- slowing down – moving at a slower and more sustainable pace; &
- making choices that cater for their needs, but also take into account the community as a whole.
On Camp, students have an opportunity to be COMPETENT by:
- cooking all their own meals;
- managing their belongings & themselves;
- reflecting often – finding opportunities for growth and celebration;
- developing and sustaining deeper relationships within their community; &
- seeing THEMSELVES as competent, through having opportunities to make decisions for themselves.
“All the manufactured equipment and all the indoor instructional materials produced by the best educators in the world cannot substitute for the primary experience of hands-on engagement with nature. They cannot replace the sensory moment where a child’s attention is captured by the phenomena and materials of nature: the dappled sparkle of sunlight through leaves, the sound and motion of plants in the wind, the sight of butterflies or a colony of ants, the imaginative worlds of a square yard of dirt or sand, the endless sensory experience of water, the infinite space in an iris flower.” www.whitehutchinson.com/children/articles/outdoors
On Camp, students have an opportunity to be RESOURCEFUL by:
- using their initiative – cooking, cleaning, tidying and maintaining;
- finding new ‘toys’ to engage in from the natural world;
- developing independence through managing their own space and belongings, and making choices for themselves;
- developing a connection with the natural world and consequently seeing it as a precious resource that needs to be respected and cared for;
- sharing their previous experiences with others and supporting those less-experienced in the outdoors;
- seeing their community as a support network they can call on when needed; &
- seeing themselves as a valuable support and resource for others within their community.
On Camp, students have an opportunity to be RESILIENT by:
- experiencing situations that are outside their familiar world and ‘comfort zone’;
- being away from home and valuing their classmates as a supportive community or familial substitute;
- risk-assessing and risk-taking in ways that build their confidence that they can handle difficult situations;
- feeling okay about being in their own company and making their own decisions – not simply deferring to others; &
- challenging themselves and/or seeking support to persevere through challenging situations – physical, social or emotional.
On Camp, students have an opportunity to be RESPONSIBLE by:
- caring for and maintaining all of their own belongings;
- organising and managing their ‘home space’ and its maintenance;
- keeping their bodies safe around a camp fire and while using outdoor equipment;
- respectfully using outdoor tools/equipment, such knives, matches, tents etc;
- acknowledging they are part of a community – interacting respectfully with others (even if tired/frustrated); &
- appreciating the role they play in helping/hindering the social dynamic when spending extended time together.
“Natural elements provide for open-ended play that emphasizes unstructured creative exploration with diverse materials. The high levels of complexity and variety nature offers invites longer and more complex play. Because of their interactive properties, plants stimulate discovery, dramatic pretend play, and imagination. Plants speak to all of the senses, so it’s not surprising that children are closely attuned to environments with vegetation. Plants, in a pleasant environment with a mix of sun, shade, colour, texture, fragrance, and softness of enclosure also encourage a sense of peacefulness. Natural settings offer qualities of openness, diversity, manipulation, exploration, anonymity and wildness.” www.whitehutchinson.com/children/articles/outdoors