Head of Middle School, Brad Hilliard, sat down with the new Head of Outdoor Learning, Matthew Wells, at the Year 7 Camp. Here’s what Brad took away from their conversation.
When I look back at my own childhood and schooling, I have many fond memories regarding outdoor education and I see similarities with the Outdoor Learning program at Wesley, which has been developed to build students’ resilience, life skills and a passion for the great outdoors.
Recently, I joined our new Head of Outdoor Learning, Matthew Wells, on the Year 7 Camp at Nanga, where he gave me some interesting perspectives on not only the importance of the program but the benefits that can be taken back into the school setting as well as drawn on in the future.
I asked Matt how Outdoor Learning at Wesley College compared to what he has seen in other schools. ‘I think this question can be answered in two parts,’ he said. ‘Firstly, I see Outdoor Learning at Wesley as being part of the fabric that makes this College so unique. Outdoor Learning is an important co-curricular program, and we are able to offer unique experiential-based activities that span from Margaret River to Karijini.
‘This experiential style of program is different as it promotes lifelong activities and positive relationships. Within the Outdoor Learning program at Wesley, the students do not simply travel through a place, they are given time to understand it. I suppose that differs from other Outdoor Learning approaches that I have seen. Also, at Wesley the community is very positive about the program.
‘Both teachers and students understand the ‘why’ of Outdoor Learning. This is largely due to the College committing time for students to grow and learn and also due to the exceptional Katitjin program which is built upon similar principles.
‘Secondly, the program is progressive. At no point do the students take a step backwards, instead they are encouraged to challenge and move out of their comfort zone or strive for their next personal or group goal. In doing so, they have the chance to create their own unique experiences in the outdoors,’ Matt explained.
Parents can sometimes be unsure of the benefits of Outdoor Learning as they have not necessarily had the same experiences in their own schooling. Convincing parents of the benefits can be a challenge, but one that Matt believes is easily overcome when they see the opportunities their children are encouraged to experience.
‘Education as a whole is an ever-changing environment and Outdoor Learning is just one facet of this,’ he said. ‘I would have to say that one of the greatest benefits to Outdoor Learning is giving students the opportunity to learn through their achievements and mistakes but also offer them a chance to learn outside the classroom. Outdoor Learning offers a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about the natural world, themselves and others around them in a remote environment. Students are trusted to experience the College motto of By daring & by doing and are provided with a unique, safe and supportive space to learn and grow.’
It is important that the community is aware of the obvious benefits that students gain as well as less well-known ones. ‘The obvious outcomes for students are resilience, self-management, self-awareness, positive relationships (with themselves, others and the natural environment) as well as the notion of leadership and followership,’ said Matt. ‘Some of the lesser-known benefits are the concepts of experiential education or learning through one’s experiences, which develop lifelong skills and a passion for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, climbing and hiking. However, by far the best, and sometimes the most overlooked, are the connections and friendships that are formed whilst on the program and the benefit to one’s mental health by simply ‘disconnecting’ from the digital world.’
After my conversation with Matt and experiencing the Year 7 Camp, I think Outdoor Education at Wesley College is in very good hands!
This article first appeared in the Wesley College magazine, The Wesleyan. To read more articles, please click here.
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