News from the Field Studies Centre

This week we have welcomed the boys allocated to the second Year 9 Field Studies Residential Programme for 2021, to the Woollamia Campus. As always, the Field Studies Centre springs to life as a new cohort of students arrive and begin to settle into the place that they will call home for the next four weeks. The words ‘potential’ and ‘possibility’ jump to mind as I consider what the coming weeks will bring. At the conclusion of each programme, the staff spend time reflecting on what worked well and what can be improved for the next group. The cycle of continuous improvement leads to subtle tweaks and changes that ultimately benefit the students and will inform the Extended Residential Programme that will be launched in Term 4 of this year.

The boys have been learning new things since stepping of the bus on Tuesday morning. The Welcome to Country, performed by local aboriginal elder Theresa Ardler on the first night, provided the students with an opportunity to consider the significance of the local area through the lens of the local indigenous people. The boys had the opportunity to learn about bush plants and medicines and the crossover of indigenous languages and the evolution of local dialects. Developing skills behind the handlebars of a mountain bike, with ropes and specialised climbing equipment, and at the helm of a Canadian canoe, have been a focus of the last few days. These skills will be revisited and further developed as the boys progress through the weeks ahead.    

Risk education is important for all young people. Learning to discern between positive and negative risks and make informed decisions is a fundamental part of growing up and travelling the path towards becoming an adult. The outdoor education elements of the Field Studies Programme are sequenced in such a way that as the students’ skills and comfort in new environments grows, so does the requirement to make their own decisions and action them.

A simple traffic light analogy is often shared with the students as it provides a quick way for an individual and group to arrive at safe decisions. A green light indicates that the group can continue with what they are doing, full steam ahead. A yellow light situation would indicate the need to be cautious, to slow down and think through the consequences of a decision that is to be made. Are we navigating close to a cliff edge on a hike? Is the tide coming up and could that make the next stretch of beach impassable? A red light would indicate that there is something bad is likely to happen if we are to continue. A red light is an unacceptable risk in the outdoor programme and the benefit of continuing down a certain path is negated by the consequences. 

Providing an opportunity for students to learn to make a range of important decisions and assess risk while they have access to the support of their Field Studies group leaders, is key to the design of the residential experience. Each boy will encounter many green, yellow and red light situations as they navigate adolescence and beyond. Avoiding all levels of risk is not the aim of life. Assessing the risks that we are likely to encounter and making informed choices that lead to good outcomes, is the goal.

Tim Knowles | Head of Field Studies Centre (FSC)

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