Sue Fitcher, owner and operator of Getaway Trekking has kindly written this guest article:
Highlighting the multiple benefits of School camps and excursions for high school students, even in the aftermath of COVID, you could be inspired to organise your own school event.
I have a challenge for you
Ask yourself how many aspects of your life have changed in the last year or so, and there’s a fair chance you’ll quickly run out of fingers, and perhaps even toes.
Families have been kept apart, new mothers coping with little or no support, our older generation having periods with no visitors at all. And of course, many have become seriously ill and even died.
In the face of all this, the cancellation of school camps and excursions might seem a small matter, even inconsequential, and there would be many who would argue this is so. But is it?
The benefits of being outdoors
We know we feel better in the outdoors. What’s interesting is that there’s now a raft of evidence relating to why this is.
Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Antidepressant microbes in soil cause cytokine levels to rise, which, along with exposure to natural light, supports the production of melatonin and serotonin, keeping our body clock in balance.
A Japanese study compared participants walking in forests to another group walking for the same length and intensity in an urban setting. The forest walkers demonstrated significantly lower heart rates and reported better moods and less anxiety than their counterparts.
And then there are endorphins – your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters – which are boosted by physical activity. It all adds up so that it makes a lot of sense to combine the lot and get your heart-rate up in the great outdoors.
Creating memories and exploring their potential
At a time where our young people need to deal with the uncertainty of C-19 in addition to school, relationships and all other aspects of adolescence, I would argue there has never been a more important time to get our kids away from their screens and into nature.
Some of my favourite school memories are excursions and camps, where we went to exciting places and escaped the classroom schedule for other more fun activities.
A well planned and managed school camp not only looks at learnings based on curriculum. It can take kids out of their day to day routines and into a new environment of experiential learning, where they practice new teamwork and leadership skills and form new friendship groups. It also has the capacity to help them push beyond what they believe they can achieve.
Poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right when he said
‘The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.’
The same applies to stretching out of our comfort zone. When we achieve, it stretches our self imposed limitations and provides a benchmark for comparison.
‘Ok, so I didn’t think I could do that, but I did. So maybe I can do this too.‘
In other words, doing hard things teaches us to do other hard things.
Our school excursion experience has been predominantly in taking students across the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, definitely outside the comfort zone for most people, and particularly students.
Standing on the ground where Australian soldiers fought to defend our country provides an understanding of their courage and sacrifice that will never be found in a history book. Compound that with the challenge of tired legs on never ending mud and mountain ranges, and the appreciation magnifies. Meeting our PNG crew who take such pride in their work and have not yet learned to revere materialism over family and community takes the experience to another level.
There are lots of opportunities to be found on Australian soil
With no international travel at present, we’re unable to visit our PNG family and we’re missing them terribly. But the silver lining in the cloud is the opportunity to visit, explore and learn about our own country.
You may have been to Cairns, but have you hiked and camped in the Atherton Tablelands, just a short distance away?
Learned about bush tucker and how to throw a spear on Cooya Beach?
Or perhaps hiked through the Great South West Walk in Victoria or followed the path of the Aussie Camino, a commemorative pilgrimage to Sister Mary Mackillop, Australia’s only saint.
It is true there are many travel companies no longer operating. The good news is that most of those that are, have built on their years of experience working within the school system, and transitioning into domestic travel.
Be sure to ask your travel provider about their Risk Management Framework, and ability to support school staff with the risk and compliance requirements necessary to achieve school and Department/Board approvals. This is an incredibly time consuming area for staff, and a travel provider with the necessary analyses and documentation in place can streamline the process significantly.
Don’t give up on school camps
They are opportunities for great educational learning and some really significant personal development. We all want our kids to grow into kind, ethical, resilient and active citizens, and many of the experiences that support such growth take place outside the classroom and outside the ordinary.
Sleeping in a swag under the stars after a day trekking with camels to Lake Torrens in the Flinders Ranges? There’s an experience unlikely to be forgotten.
Because not all classrooms have four walls.
Who are Getaway Trekking & Adventures?
Operating since 2006, Getaway Trekking & Adventures has a wealth of experience in supporting students in the outdoors. Through our Kokoda School Treks program, hundreds of Australian students have learned about our history, challenged themselves physically, and through travelling in a developing nation, gained an appreciation for their own good fortune and global responsibility.
If you are unable to travel on your selected departure date due to having contracted COVID-19, or living in an area that restricts your travel in the region of your booked trek, you will be offered your choice of the following options:
- Transferring your deposit to another trek or destination
- Transferring your deposit to another departure date
- Receiving a full refund
Get in touch with Getaway here.