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The Benefits of Camp Schools with Students (Part 2)

Posted by Andrew Stuart* (Youth & Community Development Consultants) on

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THE BENEFITS OF CAMP SCHOOLS WITH STUDENTS (Part 2)

Education Department staff: "WA Camp Schools – Experts in student residential outdoor education, adventure-based learning, team building, pro-social skills training and resilience!"

Our Camp Schools certainly are considered an essential part of the educational curriculum and they are designed to support a variety of areas of learning in each child’s personal and social development too.  This has been the fact for many decades here in Western Australia.  No Government’s drastic “cost-cutting” measures can take that historical fact away from our communities, our schools, our teachers and most importantly our kids.  Why on earth our Government decided to hand over six of the seven WA Camp Schools administration to Fairbridge WA, is beyond all rational thought!  Fairbridge, of all places. With a sketchy history of poor fiscal management and staffing issues over many decades, surely Fairbridge, would have been the very last port of call.  Maybe it was?  Maybe nobody else wanted to take up this challenge?  The Department of Sport & Recreation certainly didn't!  Why not you ask?  Isn't it obvious enough!

So, what is it about residential Camp Schools - we know why they are effective.  So do thousands of Teachers and kids around the state each and every year.  What really are the underlying benefits of participating in a Camp School with students?

HOW OUR CURRENT SUCCESSFUL CAMP SCHOOLS RUN NOW

We certainly do believe in the benefits of outdoor learning, and we know that school residential camps can enhance both primary and secondary students’ educational experience.  We also know that successful residential Camp School experiences provide amazing educational outcomes for students like: success-based outdoor challenges, build confidence, promote independence, risk-taking, self-reliance, teamwork, leadership & followership, forge life-long friendships and also increase student-teacher engagement and further attainment back at school.

“The Camp School Manager & all of their amazing staff are some of the most experienced providers of residential outdoor education here in WA. We doubt very much that they could be matched by any other provider!” (Teacher, Secondary school)

Every school can benefit from a residential Camp School experience

We believe that every school student should have the opportunity to participate in a week-long residential camping experience, and that this opportunity should be seen as a fundamental part of a well-rounded education. Yes, it certainly is considered “core business” of the Education Department, and it always has been for many decades here in WA.

By taking students out of a formal classroom environment and into fun and exhilarating experiences with a focused on challenge and adventure, Camp Schools encourage whole classes to bond and be captivated, the shyest to shine as leaders and the unmotivated to become the most enthusiastic about developing a new skill.

For some strange reason, even that ‘special’ student who just loves loading up the automatic dishwasher after each and every meal time. Why, we don’t know fully, but we’re researching that phenomena. At this point - we just don’t care, as long as he just keeps doing it! It’s doing wonders for that child’s self-esteem and his ‘different’ leadership skills!

With a wide range of challenging, high adrenaline and skill-based indoor and outdoor activity sessions, Camp School staff, together with the attending teachers, keep students constantly active throughout their camp stay. They work hard and strive to make every student’s experience as impactful as possible and they continually improve every aspect of their experiential-learning and outdoor adventures, fresh, new and exciting each year with each age-related student activity sessions.

"Please don't let them take our Camp Schools away from us!" (Teacher, Primary School)

CAMP SCHOOL STAFF:   "Essentially we TEACH every day. We are not a just a campsite - we are a Camp School. We deliver specific programs based on where we are located and that school's value, what we offer, and that school children benefit from experience, a wide range of programs, and that we are actually an educational facility!"  [Staff member]

WA CAMP SCHOOLS - TEACHING PROGRAM OF ACTIVITIES CLEARLY DO SUPPORT OUR SCHOOLS LEARNING OBJECTIVES

"Camp School Managers and all of their professionally trained staff, believe that learning is achieved most effective when it’s also FUN. While all of the activities that they run naturally have additional benefits which encourage the development of pro-social skills, and personal development skills, Camp School Managers have specially developed a series of programmes designed to complement the primary and secondary school curriculums." (Teacher, Primary School)

CAMP SCHOOL LEARNING OUTCOMES

"Part of the ‘bespoke’ Camp School experience they provide is to ensure that each and every school that participates meets their learning objectives. This is why Camp staff have grouped all camp activities into categories which maximise the potential learning outcomes for our students, and of course schools can tailor their own program to meet their own objectives around these outcomes. This is what I like about the ‘flexibility’ of our WA Camp Schools. Nobody else could do it exactly the same way, nobody!" (Principal, Primary School)

You can’t always get all of these outcomes in the classroom, or the school playground:

* Challenge and risk: Understanding the challenges and the consequences of controlled and healthy risk-taking.

* Self-confidence: Finding personal strengths, identifying opportunities for reflection, and boosting group engagement.

* Communication: Enhancing speaking and listening skills, plus non-verbal communication.

Learning a new skill: Exploring how individuals learn through the inspiring development of practical skills.

* Leading and supporting: Thriving in both roles through reflection, communication and building positive relationships.

* Environmental awareness: Understanding how the human footprint affects the environment, both locally and globally.

* Motivation: Inspiring learners in a supportive setting to be the best that they can be, or at least try too.

* Teamwork: Developing the ability to work constructively as a team member, or maybe not and understanding why.

* Problem solving: Learning is applied in layers through continued cycles of plan, do, review, have a whinge, then repeat.

* Resilience: Finding positive opportunities for learning through exposure to failures or setbacks.

MEANINGFUL LEARNING EXPERIENCES OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

"What I love the most about all of our Camp Schools, is that they are clearly dedicated to providing meaningful learning experiences for young people outside of their classroom. Camp Schools focus on developing those essential 'real-life-skills' that will carry students through their primary and secondary education, and beyond! With specifically designed programmes and camp activity delivery that are specifically tailored to enhance personal child development. They clearly aim to support teachers and schools in prioritising the emotional and social growth of all students who attend a Camp School - ESPECIALLY our 'at-risk' students!" (Deputy Principal, Primary School WA)

"All our children are leaving feeling more self-confident. They have worked well as a team and have been very encouraging of each other. The selection of outdoor activities also did a good job in building their communication skills!” (Teacher, Primary school)

CAMP SCHOOLS:  Many schools often chose the Education Department’s Camp Schools because they wish to support the attainment of those life-skills such as: social skills, behavioural management skills, communication enhancement, as well as supporting all students overall physical and emotional well-being whilst away on camp. Amazingly, this is of course, also delivered in an incredibly supportive and nurturing environment – whilst away on camp.

Whilst each Camp School’s programming and life skills learnt on camp has all the fun and action of ‘Challenge-by-Choice’ activities, high adventure and teamwork development in small groups, they also magically add an essential additional ingredient into every school camp program – which is – safety & risk management. This allows Camp School staff to focus all of their camp activities and outdoor adventures to suddenly become all about developing each student’s social, emotional, self-reliance, interdependence, self-respect, respect for others and their personal skills. 

Challenge-by-Choice & the Process of Change with Working with Youth-at-Risk

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This often only actually happens on a Camp School program – because camp Managers are also qualified teachers and all of their camp support staff and activity instructors, are specifically chosen for their repertoire of both people skills and the technical skills to safely conduct all activities. All camp staff are very sympathetic towards children (primary) and young people (secondary) and not just because they are ‘school students’. It is this child development mindset that is essential in the delivery of each Camp School’s programming requirements. This enables all camp leaders, outdoor instructors, support staff and teachers, to equip all student groups with the opportunity for positive goal setting and enables each and every student to personally learn more about themselves, through their own personal achievement and daily success experiences.

“Our prime objectives were safety, teamwork, resilience and perseverance and every aspect of the Camp School experience fulfilled and supported these objectives.” (Deputy Principal, Primary School)

CHALLENGING OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES WHILST ON SCHOOL CAMP

Students Realise Their True Potential: The focus on personal development to maximise the impact of their school camp’s selected program of activities

What I particularly love is how all Camp School staff believe (very passionately) about supporting students through all aspects of their personal development. The pressure on students today is increasingly apparent and what is often reflected back to camp staff, is that students also appreciate the break away from their normal home life and also the opportunity to interact with ‘different’ (some plain old crazy, but lovable) adult staff members on their Camp School away from their school environment.

The focus of these ‘crazy’ and yet fun Camp School staff members, and the chosen program of activities, is often (well, almost always!) about developing social, personal and emotional skills. This also helps, in often a very different way, to prepare both primary and secondary school students for a future that they don’t yet know. 

Camp School staff are very aware of and interested in, equipping young people with the life-skills needed to succeed and allowing them to reach their full potential, not only in learning at school, but also in their life and the next stage of their personal development:

*  GOAL SETTING
*  POSITIVE THINKING
*  ANXIETY CONTROL
*  TEAM FOCUS
(not self)
*  VISUALISING SUCCESS
*  ATTENTION CONTROL (attentiveness/focussing)
*  BEHAVIOUR MANAGEMENT (self-control)
*  BOUNCING BACK (resilience)
*  SELF-CONTROL (self-monitoring)
*  SURVIVING BEING AWAY FROM HOME
*  ADAPTIVE COPING BEHAVIOURS (as opposed to maladaptive coping behaviours)

By immersing children and young people in high challenge situations through the use of our mentally and physically adventurous activities, we can replicate an exposure to stress and pressure in a controlled, nurturing and supportive environment. Specially trained staff use a blend of resilience coaching, reflection sessions and lots of FUN but challenging activities, to encourage self-awareness and learn the skills needed to become more resilient.

Encouraging students to visualise success, control anxiety and enabling them to perform at the peak of their abilities, means that the skills learned and achievements made during the programme can be powerfully transferred back into everyday life, improving self-awareness and resilience.

PLAN               DO               REVIEW               REPEAT               PLAN

Resilience is a quality which can determine how individuals perform when exposed to stress, pressure and challenge, as well as being a key factor in enabling individuals to perform to the peak of their abilities. The timetable of activity and adventure sessions has a daily theme to improve self-awareness in areas which link to resilience. From personal experience, I guarantee that you can't quite replicate that in a CLASSROOM, as you can on a challenging outdoor adventure activity!

CAMP SCHOOL OUTCOMES: THE STATS 

87% of secondary school students felt more confident to try new things they would not have done before participating on their residential school camp.

84% of secondary school students said that because of their camp school experience, they got on better with other students in the class.

79% of secondary school students indicated that their residential camp school experience had made them realise that what they learn at school is important to them.

In long-term follow-up surveys, 79% of primary school students said, because of their residential camp school experience, they knew their teachers much better.

82% of staff involved felt that their school’s participation away with their students on a camp school had a ‘significant’ or ‘transformative’ impact on their understanding of their student’s strengths and limitations.

In long-term follow-up surveys, 71% of primary students said that because of their residential camp experience, they get on better with the other pupils in the class.                                    [* Source: independent school survey]

“Exactly what we needed! Our students previously lacked the belief in themselves & each had very low resilience & self-esteem. All of your outdoor instructors were ALWAYS continually encouraging each of our students to overcome their own self-perceived barriers, and yet somehow, you always made them feel safe at times. How you do that Andrew - is quite frankly - amazing! Our students are still talking & writing about all of their adventures whist away on camp. Our students shall never forget that phrase – together each achieves more success – Thank you & to all of your WYLD T.E.A.M!” (Teacher, Secondary School)

So, surviving a residential Camp School experience does work and it does our kids good too!

This is how all of our amazing WA Camp Schools are currently run now. But, just how they will be conducted in the future - is anybody’s guess?   "One thing is for sure, is that all schools now attending will undoubtedly have to take that HUGE risk to find this out for themselves. They will no longer be run the same."  (Teacher, Primary School)

Correct, these Teachers are right - our WA Camp Schools they will never be the same, as they have been for many decades here in WA!   Fairbridge WA is certainly NOT the correct Management choice as the WA Government service provider. 


* About the Author:  Andrew has been actively involved in the youth & community development and outdoor adventure industries over the past 38 years. He has also managed several businesses in the outdoor adventure tourism industry including: the Western Venture wilderness-experience program, Corporate Adventure Training, Wilderness Ventures, the Outdoor Adventure Network, Outdoor Gear Australia and he is also a senior outdoor instructor, rafting river guide, and workplace trainer & assessor with the WYLD Camps Project - a wilderness youth leadership development project that works with 'at-risk' children & youth and their families here in Western Australia.

Interested? Want to read more of our articles like 'How To Become an Outdoor Adventure Guide', or perhaps more about the ongoing safety and risk management issues sadly lacking on the island of Bali?  Check out more at the bottom of our blog page HERE

Or, if you just wanna 'chew-the-fat' our e-mail is: info@outdoor-gear.com.au