Teaching in the great outdoorsJohn Blois
Trinity’s Field Studies Programme is a beloved feature of a Trinity education, providing students with the opportunity to grow exponentially in mind, body, and spirit throughout the term-long programme. But it’s not just the students who are benefiting from the programme – the teachers at the Field Studies Centre in Woollamia also embrace some unique opportunities.
The teaching staff at the FSC have the challenge of shaping the curriculum to not only keep up with those studying at the Summer Hill campus, but also keeping it flexible to reflect the South Coast setting in which the students are learning.
Leah Arthur is on the academic team at the FSC, teaching Geography and Christian Studies, as well as coordinating the academic programme. Her role is all about finding this balance between the existing curriculum and the incredible outdoor learning environment.
“We aim to make use of the natural resources that we have around us and give the students a sense of ownership and responsibility for their environment.
“The integrated outdoor education and academic programme means that students have the chance to grow in many different ways. As staff, we also have a chance to interact with and instruct the students in a range of environments. It’s a more holistic way to approach education and is very enjoyable.”
For Leah, it was an easy decision to take a role at the FSC, especially when each day looks so different from the next.
“Being in a residential setting, there is more than just an academic day to think about,” she says. “We need to plan mornings and evenings, prep activities and free time. This means that we get to do things like canoeing, hiking, dolphin watching, and reading that we wouldn’t do in a normal school week.
“I love working with the FSC team – they are a group of people that are really passionate, loyal, and competent.”
While the FSC may be a fair drive from Sydney, the connection between the academic teams on each campus is strong and support is ever-present.
“I liaise with the main School regularly to set assessments, coordinate report writing and instigate initiatives that tie into individual faculty goals,” Leah says. “I have support from the Academic Dean and the Head of the Field Studies Centre to make sure that our programme fits seamlessly into the wider School.
“This term, we are starting a Professional Learning Team focused on place-based pedagogy that will help us to cement our activities further.”
Of course, there are plenty of challenges throughout the programme. Many students find it difficult to adjust to a new way of learning in the first few weeks but Leah says it’s very satisfying to watch them figure it all out and become more independent as they settle into the rhythm of the FSP.
The weather, too, has posed some challenges, particularly in early 2022. The team has needed to adjust field work, change dates, and stay flexible, but after the setbacks of the pandemic, the team knows it’s all about just taking each day as it comes and embracing the opportunities that come along too.
“One of the big opportunities of working in a small passionate team is the chance to chase our own passions and interests with the boys,” Leah says. “This term we have introduced an edible weeds and edible insects component, we garden with the boys, and we have a weekly reading challenge. We are investigating getting some bee hives and growing mushrooms!
“Without the distractions of the ‘real world’, the boys have the time to grow these interests and expand their hobbies.
Perhaps the best aspect of the programme is the way that each term differs from the next as a new group of Year 9 students descend on the centre with their personalities, interests, and willingness to learn.
“Each term we have a new group of boys, so each term is a chance for us to see great new things, make new connections, and work on refining our programme.”
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