Camps – Having A Go – Jennifer Oaten

The purpose of camps is to push students beyond their comfort zone. The activities are unfamiliar, being away from family may be unfamiliar and working in teams may be unfamiliar. Life sends us many unfamiliar situations and challenges where we have to be prepared to be brave and have a go.

High ropes courses for our Year 6s, building rafts for our Year 7s or cooking meals on our Year 12 Outdoor Education and Year 10 Reach expedition may cause some discomfort, but this is an important part of learning to overcome uncertainty and challenges.

Fear is a typical response when introducing new challenges and experiences to our girls. It can prevent them from having a go as it causes them to feel uncertain and vulnerable. Fear takes away their sense of security and control. Teenagers often don’t want to do anything they aren’t good at as they want to be confident that they will excel. In many cases, they end up choosing to avoid it.

Toddlers are brave. They have a go at everything, including the things we don’t want them to have a go at! They are not limited by their own self-doubt, the influence of peers or the need to be accepted by others. Curiosity is what propels a young child to venture away from the safety of their parent to explore the environment. Camps provide opportunities in our natural world and challenge our girls, enabling them to connect with nature and to become more comfortable with the unfamiliar.

Life is full of uncertainty, and we need to ensure we begin this journey of development, giving our young people opportunities to be brave, to have a go and accept the situation when it does not turn out as they had hoped.

As parents, when our children are nervous, stumble, or unsure about tacking the unfamiliar, we often want to step in and sort out the issue, whether it be resolving a change in friendships or being unsure about sleeping in a tent. Usually, there is a simple solution, but guidance to solve the problem themselves is what we want to see, rather than teachers or parents solving it for them. Our young people are so capable from such a young age, and sometimes we don’t give them enough credit.

Terry Heick writes about the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. It simply means, ‘Show me, help me, let me.’ As young people embark on unfamiliar activities, teachers and parents should first show what needs to be done, assist the student with doing it if needed, and let the child work independently. Each step is critical to allowing the student the chance to trust in their own ability and believe in themselves.

The high ropes courses challenged our girls. They needed to problem solve each small section of the course. It was amazing to watch the incredible smiles and the joy on their faces when they finished the zip line.

5 great benefits of school camps

  1. Camps develop confidence. Our girls grow their confidence in managing for themselves. Camps promote independence and opportunities for our girls to fulfil responsibilities such as completing an orienteering activity. The girls challenged themselves with these activities, facing their fears of height and testing their endurance.
  2. Camps develop problem-solving abilities, such as navigating the high ropes course.
  3. The girls were able to be immersed in the natural environment and experience the wonder of kangaroos near the campsite and walking in the bush.
  4. Camps develop social interactions, such as patience, sharing, helping and including others. Team building was evident in every activity they completed. Students encouraged each other, celebrated their successes together, and embraced each girl’s different skillset.
  5. Camps develop being brave! Providing this adventure enables our girls to build the confidence to try new and different experiences. More structured in the younger years and more independent in the older years.

Camps are huge logistical exercises that require many staff and hours to organise and run. I can confidently say that the value to our girls always outweighs the organisational challenges and form some of the fondest memories of their school days.

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