Mr Jeff Symms
This week our boys in Years 4, 5 and 6 are attending their annual outdoor education program, and I’m sure having a great deal of fun.
This year we have moved our camps all to the Sunshine Coast and with the Maranatha Group with the Year 6 boys attending Camp Touchekoi, Year 5 at Maranatha Yandina and Year 4 at Camp Boulder Creek.
While having fun is an important objective, there is also a much higher purpose for camp, and that is building independence and resilience in the boys. Some boys are more naturally independent, some have independence built into them by parents who see the value in helping their son take tentative steps away from their 24-7 watchful eye, while some boys need the opportunities that camps provide to stretch their boundaries of independence.
One of the great experiences for a teacher at school camp is seeing that less confident and tentative boy, grow each day into more certainty about his capability to survive (and maybe thrive), away from home.
School camps build confidence, ignite creativity and problem-solving, stimulate a sense of adventure, encourage social interaction and team-building, and promote independence. The activities selected at each camp have been very carefully chosen to help the boys achieve all of these aims. They will hike, rock climb, camp out, help with meals, keep cabins tidy, organise their stuff, orienteer, engage in archery, canoeing, low and high rope courses, zip lines, abseil and play games.
At the end of the three days they should come home tired yet satisfied.
What might they say when they return? ‘Best camp ever!’ ‘Loved it!’ ‘Made new friends!’ ‘Learnt how to..’ ‘I’m tired’ ‘I’m hungry’. I’m sure they will all have stories to tell. Some may even be not so positive, ‘I didn’t get enough to eat’, ‘I didn’t like the food’, ‘the boys were noisy and kept me awake’, ‘the activity was too hard and I didn’t want to do it, but they made me’.
What do we say to these sorts of responses? It is important to listen to the good and the bad, but also to help your son keep it all in perspective. And here is some background that might help answer some of these:-
‘I didn’t get enough to eat’. Please be assured that the camps caterers provide ample food. And there is plenty of time in the program for the boys to eat.
‘I didn’t like the food’. This is usually the reason for the statement above. Our campsites go to a lot of trouble to cater nutritious meals to the boys, but also things they will enjoy and they often provide options. Having worked many, many camps over the years I can attest to boys not eating enough because they don’t like vegetables or fruit, or ‘at home, mum only gives me things I like’. The camps will provide for genuine food allergies, but boys who all of a sudden become ‘allergic’ to apples or carrots or milk or other things they don’t like, may not have options they prefer.
However, busy boys are hungry boys and by the second meal or so, even the fussy start to eat up. Many parents have commented to me that ‘he wouldn’t eat that at home’, and yet in the camp environment amongst the other boys and needing a meal – they are suddenly able to broaden their palette!
‘The boys were noisy and I couldn’t sleep’. This is usually a bit true on the first night. The boys are excited and may take a little while to settle, but the teachers have the bed times routines worked out through experience and don’t permit disruption for too long. Occasionally a boy who just can’t settle may be moved to another cabin. By the second night – these tired boys tend to fall to sleep fairly quickly.
‘The activity was too hard and I didn’t want to do it.’ One of the key aspects of camp is moving your son out of his ‘comfort zone’ a little and getting him to try new things and develop new skills. The staff will encourage boys to have a go and see what they can do, and again I have witnessed many boys who are reluctant at the start, gain a real sense of achievement by permitting himself to be try.
I believe that we often learn more about ourselves and our capability when things are tough – when we are being challenged and taken out of our normal existence. If your son comes home with stories that are good or bad – hear him out, but help him put both into the context of life learning and experience.
Our Year 6 boys will also head off in August for their annual trip to our Nation’s capital to undertake their civics study. They will be given the opportunity to participate in a variety of educational programs with a focus on Australia’s history, culture, heritage and democracy.
The Australian Government recognises the importance of all young Australians being able to visit the national capital as part of their Civics and Citizenship education. To assist families in meeting the cost of the excursion the Australian Government is contributing funding of $90 per student under the Parliament and Civics Education Rebate program towards those costs. The rebate is paid directly to the school upon completion of the excursion.
This subsidy is paid into our Canberra Tour budget account to help meet the cost of this tour, which is included in TSS tuition for Year 6.
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