Woodleigh Outdoor Education program

It has been such a pleasure to get students out and about on camp again. Don’t get me wrong, Term 1 was busy, and there were times when all of us wondered whether it was going to be worth it. Eight senior homestead camps, six junior homestead camps, and TWO HATTAHS! A friend once said that life is all about biting off more than you can chew. You just need to learn to chew harder.

I hold a very privileged position here at Woodleigh as Director of Outdoor Education. Not only do I get to teach the most important Year 12 subject, but I also get to see students excel and demonstrate skills and leadership that were not always evident before in the classroom. I hear stories from parents about how their children returned from a program ‘…a little bit less of a child and a little bit more of an adult.’ I hear feedback from students like “that was #@%&*@ great” as they walk into camp on the final day of Hattah. What a job!

Students who participated in camps during Term 1 demonstrated physical and emotional strength. The staff who were lucky enough to experience were amazed at the competence and sheer grit that the current Year 9’s, Year 10’s, and 11’s displayed during their time on Hattah and Expedition. It was hot, it rained, it was windy, some did not pack enough food, the blisters were plentiful, backs were sore, spinifex was spikey, the mountains were tall, and flies were persistent. Through all of this, we saw a group of young women and men look after each other, make accurate decisions for themselves with real consequences and grow in confidence as they realised they did have the skills and knowledge to look after themselves in the bush. This level of cohesiveness and resolve bodes well.

The Year 7 and 8’s were able to continue working on that essential Homestead community. There were Masterchef competitions, quiz nights, dramatic performances, surf lessons, hikes, and debriefs. Staff and students cooperating alongside each other to build community and trust are essential aspects of Junior Homestead camp. Staff was impressed by Year 7’s preparedness and willingness to give things a go, and by Year 8 are stepping up as leaders. At the end of the week, we saw new friendships formed through trust, empathy, and cohesive Homesteads.

Reflecting on Term 1 has also led me to think about the Woodleigh Outdoor Education program as a whole. Having been in this role for several years now, I like to consider why we do what we do. I keep coming back to this idea of perseverance and determination. I think tenacity is at the core of Outdoor Education at Woodleigh. Students have tenacity when they participate in a camp that was not their first choice. They show perseverance when they doggedly practise and learn a new skill. It takes determination to work with a new group of people. Outdoor Education at Woodleigh plays a vital role in the development of this character strength.

To the students, the Activities Week ballot is coming out in the middle of this term. I encourage you to think about balloting for camps to allow you to show some ‘tenacity.’ To be aware, there are still fantastic learning opportunities in not being given your first preference. Base your ballot on what inspires you, not on what your friends are doing. To parents, I ask that you counsel your children as they are balloting and be on board with the importance of the program and that there are fantastic opportunities in all of the Camps Woodleigh has to offer.

I look forward to hearing more stories and reading more reflections at the end of Term 3.

Director of Outdoor Education