Outdoor Education: Building genuine independence

As I write this article, the Year 4s are settling down to sleep after their second day at camp. After the excitement of the giant swing and cooking damper over an open fire, a quieter atmosphere is descending over Mt Evelyn, a beautiful bush campsite nestled at the foot of the Dandenongs. The excitement of the day is giving way to slumber as the children look forward to the new experiences our Outdoor Education team have in store for them tomorrow. It has been a joy and a privilege to spend the evening with them and I wish I could have shared the entire experience over the past three days.

Camp brings a whole new dimension to schooling and for many of our students it will be the highlight of their year. Respect and collaboration have been the key messages as the children divide into various groups to undertake initiative activities, challenges, games and duties. The challenges and successes the children enjoy away from home help to build their confidence and generate a genuine sense of independence. Next week our Year 6 students will head off to Camp Toonallook situated on the banks of the Gippsland Lakes. Self-management skills and resilience will undoubtedly come to the fore.

As parents and teachers, we should never lose sight of the fact that our ultimate aim is to cultivate individuals who are self-reliant. A safe, well-structured Outdoor Education program, such as the one Carey provides, certainly nurtures these skills and attributes.

No such thing as inappropriate weather – only inappropriate clothing
With a holiday break just around the corner, I urge all parents to encourage their children to move outside. In winter, it is very easy to fall into the trap of allowing our children to play inside all day. My wife, an early childhood educator, often reminds me that there is ‘No such thing as inappropriate weather – only inappropriate clothing’. Balance out their screen time with some active pursuits in the crisp fresh air.

Steve Wilson
Head of Junior School Donvale