Exploring external and internal landscapes with outdoor educationdeveloper
Few schools in New South Wales have comprehensive Outdoor Education programmes, and fewer still have their own Field Studies Centre (FSC) for students to enjoy each year. At Trinity Grammar School we’ve been blessed with the provision of the Woollamia campus, nestled in the heart of the Shoalhaven on the south coast of NSW – and an excellent Outdoor Education programme that is remembered by many students as a highlight in their academic career.
“Time spent at the FSC gives students the opportunity to dive into creation, spend time away from their families, and experience a life where learning and play come together,” says Mr Tim Knowles, Head of the Field Studies Centre. “At Trinity, our goal is to provide boys with a thoroughly Christian education in mind, body, and spirit; the Field Studies residential programme plays a part in developing all three of these elements of a boy’s character.”
Taking a large group of Year 9 boys away to live together for an extended period of time and letting them loose in nature may not be everyone’s first idea to help build men of strong character, but at Trinity, it works.
“It’s an opportunity for the boys to step out of a lot of the things that are often going on for our Year 9 students,” Mr Knowles says. “We get them to focus on themselves in a positive way. After all, the boys can’t be anyone but themselves when they’re away for an extended amount of time.”
“Trinity is a deliberately challenging school. Many boys are used to passive recreation, instead of active, and their time engaging in Outdoor Education is meant to push these boundaries. Some boys will find it a challenge just to make their bed each day, while others will fight their fear of heights, and still others will challenge themselves out on the waves as they learn to surf.”
There are obvious challenges, as Mr Knowles outlines above, but there are quieter challenges too.
“The boys learn what they’re capable of. They find their strengths and then they discover how they can use those strengths to help others.”
Mr Knowles believes the strong sense of community built during this experience is crucial.
“The students learn to get along. Not all the boys are going to be best friends, of course, but they do learn what it means to support each other. They learn what it is to be independent and they learn what it means to support others as well as accept that support themselves.”
For many boys, accepting that support and encouragement – whether it’s from their peers or their teachers – doesn’t come easy in a world where boys are taught to be strong for themselves and reject help. It’s just another way that their time in Woollamia challenges them in ways they may never have expected.
“They might not have ever had such an opportunity to be on the edge of their comfort zone – in so many ways – and they all look back and realise just how much they’ve achieved and changed over that period of time.”