Human nature suggests each of us possess a natural inclination to stick with the status quo, to resist the unknown, and to stay comfortable.
It is tied to our ancestral drive to survive. We can be afraid of trying something new. We may want to avoid change at all costs, and in doing so, we run the risk of never pushing ourselves to the next level where our potential may be truly fulfilled. In today’s fast-paced, connected and ever-changing world, it is vital for our personal growth that we ultimately become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Life is filled with moments of both pleasure and pain, satisfaction and suffering, delight and difficulty. By focusing only on the comfort side of the picture, we close ourselves off from the full range of human experience—and the knowledge, skills, and empathy that come with the other side.
To live well we must be courageous enough to step into the unknown, and embrace the challenges and opportunities presented. We must be willing to challenge ourselves, to be vulnerable, to grow, to adapt, and be confident in our pursuits of each challenge and adventure.
In our St John’s Grammar Wellbeing Framework one of our six key pillars is Courage & Adventure. We believe that ‘developing personal courage and a sense of adventure and agency, enables people to approach life with optimism and confidence’.
At St John’s, we see and acknowledge courage in many different ways, honouring our own unique journeys. Often, society will view courage through the lens of various heroics, yet as a school community, we inherently know that courage comes in many forms. It may be the courage to be an ‘upstander’; to stand up and call out words or actions that are not acceptable in our school culture, it may be volunteering to fill a lane in swimming carnival, and it could be a first live musical performance at an assembly, with knees trembling. For our youngest members of our community, it may be the courage to take those first steps into school life, releasing the trusted hand of a loving parent. It could be a parent having the courage to introduce themselves to others, a teacher implementing a new aspect of their professional learning into the classroom, the sharing of new ideas, or even the courage to show up each day, when life may be feeling a little bumpy.
We know that it is often in these smaller moments where courage is truly developed. By consistently being vulnerable, taking healthy risks, having an openness to new and different experiences, and by gradually stretching ourselves, we are conditioning our hearts, minds and our bodies to seek adventure in the broader ‘game of life’.
Our School Camp Program
In addition to these ‘everyday opportunities’ that are organically woven into the fabric of school life for our students, we also provide intentional larger moments of challenge through our age and stage appropriate, school camp program from Years 3 to 12.
We have designed our camps across the school to build on the skills and experiences gained in past year levels, and each camp has a particular focus, purpose, and outcomes for students individually and collectively. There is an emphasis on personal and social capabilities such as resilience, teamwork, leadership, group dynamics and responsibility, in all camps.
Great opportunities exist to develop a wide range of social skills that strengthen established relationships and develop new ones. Particular attention is provided to the way students are grouped, enabling them to flourish through the sense of belonging and connectedness they feel towards others.
Independence skills – responsibility
For our younger students, school camp may be their first time away from home where they are required to show greater responsibility for their belongings and camp provides an opportunity for children to take care of themselves. Appropriately, the challenges are extended gradually, culminating in an Abyss challenge (solo camping experience) in their Rite Journey year.
Team building and development of leadership and decision-making skills
The concepts of collaboration, helping others, assuming leadership roles and working together as a team to encourage positive decision making are key parts to all camp experiences.
Personal challenges – Resilience
On our camps, children will often be exposed to a range of activities that they may not have tried before. Our students readily embrace an adventurous spirit, whether this is an active pursuit like bushwalking, kayaking, or abseiling, or through challenges, that being away from family and the comforts of home may present.
Through these experiences, we also focus on cross-curriculum priorities such as sustainability and environmental awareness, intercultural understanding, and civics and citizenship, in addition to practical living skills such as cooking, planning and camping. We value the exposure to nature that our camps provide, recognising that time outside in the natural environment helps to promote positive mental health, better sleep, emotional regulation, as well as stimulating a greater sense of responsibility for the environment and living things.
‘On camp I enjoyed spending time watching the stars or just feeling the sun and wind on my face, not thinking about other things that needed to be done. During camp I discovered how important these times of pausing are, and I want to carry on taking some time out like things back in my busy life.’
– Year 9 student, 2019
Zoo excursion / Nunyara Camp
The first of our camp experiences, the Year 3 students take part in a zoo excursion and then attend an overnight experience at Nunyara Conference Centre – a local option that provides a nearby location for their first camp.
3 days and 2 nights at Narnu Farm on Hindmarsh Island, providing dorm accommodation and a camp focus on the natural environment.
Goldfields – Sovereign Hill and Ballarat
5 days and 4 nights – this is the first interstate camp for our students. Students attend Sovereign Hill at Ballarat, with the camp focusing on Australian history.
(Note, this camp has been altered in 2021 to adhere to COVID-safe plans.)
5 days and 4 nights – this is the first interstate camp travelling by aeroplane (often students’ first experience of being on an aeroplane without a family member). The Canberra tour has focus on Civics and Citizenship. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, this camp was changed to a two-day ‘City to Surf’ camp.
4 days and 3 nights – the first outdoor education style camp based on Hindmarsh Island. Students are involved in aquatic-based activities such as surfing and kayaking. They also experience their first overnight expedition, camping in tents and cooking on trangia stoves.
5 days and 4 nights – our Year 8 students are based on the Murray River and are involved in a kayaking expedition (2 nights) and base camp activities.
Rite Journey Flinders Ranges Abyss Challenge and Camp
5 days and 4 nights in the Flinders Ranges. This camp involves bush-walking expeditions, abseiling and the Abyss solo camping experience.
3 day and two nights for our Year 10s, where the whole year level are together. The focus is on strengthening their relationships as a cohort, as they step in to Senior School and all that it has to offer.
Explore and Extend
A comprehensive offering of activities that further complement and extend students’ experiences from Year 10.
Retreat at Nunyara
A two day, two night Retreat held at Nunyara Conference Centre in Belair in Term 1. The Retreat includes the Year 12 Induction evening and purposely sets up the year ahead for our Year 12 students.
‘It is natural to be nervous when going into an experience like this, especially when it is something you don’t do often, but by being open minded and positive it will be easier to embrace and enjoy the experiences. While you’re on camp try to enjoy every single moment, try not to wish that the week is over or that the next day will come, because too soon the week will be over and you won’t have had the chance to enjoy it to its fullest’.
– Year 9 student, 2019
Our staff are key to our camp offering, and the camp experience further strengthens the positive relationships between students and staff. Likewise, the important role modelling for our students is always present in the camp environment – never more so when our Year 9 Rite Journey teachers take the plunge, stepping courageously, yet ever so carefully, over a 70m high ledge in the mighty Flinders Ranges. Alternatively, courage and that sense of vulnerability that is felt when a School leader shares personal stories of their own trials and tribulations of their journey into adulthood, as wisdom and guidance for our future graduates.
How can I help support my child to be prepared for camp?
Camp experiences are designed to offer new challenges and stretch comfort zones and with that stretch, it is common for there to be some nerves around attending camp (for both the student and parent). Some practical things you can do to assist your child include:
- Preparation: this is the key to feeling less anxious – talk with your child about their worries and fears. Run through the camp program, and identify key things for each part. Give examples of how you overcame challenges in the past, and identify the strengths you see in them that make you feel confident about what lies ahead for them.
- Packing together and making it fun – do this ahead of time so that any items you may need to borrow or purchase can be sourced with minimum stress. Use the camp checklist and together, check off each item as you pack it. Consider a special item or memento that they can take with them to feel safe or connected to you.
- Talking to your child’s teacher and sharing the concerns – as teachers, we appreciate this additional information so that we can best support your child in their camp experience. It is likely that we also can provide a range of strategies, solutions or help to relieve uncertainty that may exist for your child.
These camp experiences whole-heartedly fulfil their mission of providing challenge, adversity and adventure for our students. They often provide that integral moment for our students, that empowers them, and they can regularly draw upon, as they summon the courage to face future challenges.
Leader of Student Wellbeing