A school camp reflection: Using nature as a classroom

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A school camp reflection: Using nature as a classroom

I have just spent three days on a school camp with eleven incredible teenage girls – girls of all personalities, differences and flairs. What stood out for me was their inner beauty, inner strength and the true connection that I felt with them all.

A three day outdoor education program may sound short, but together in nature, time seems to disappear and moments come together to create opportunities for shared experiences. There are opportunities to let go and build connections and for learning, which leads me to the question,

  • Why in the ‘real’ world is it so different?
  • And why is the way we learn and interact as students in the classroom primarily based on such things as competition, the drive to better ourselves and ‘niceness’, instead of honesty and connection?

What has been inspiring and out of the common norm is to feel the way these teenage girls have come from a place of not knowing each others’ names or wanting to interact outside their friend zone, to now sitting around sharing, laughing and opening up to each other in a way that touches my heart.

As a school camp leader I do not need all my students to be the best hikers, to jump the furthest or climb the highest, but instead I first ask them to bring themselves to the circle, to our group, to let go of past situations or roles they feel they have to bring and instead embrace a positivity and openness to learning, trying new things and working with others collaboratively.

All around me I see and feel the sheer beauty and harmony that nature can bring – the mountains, the water, a campfire, the activities we do, the stars we sit under – create a foundation and an opportunity for students to feel, re-connect and learn more about themselves, others and the environment in a way that is real and understood.

I see a true classroom out here, where students come together to see and understand that fighting and talking about someone in a hurtful way, or not taking responsibility for a task, not only impacts one person, but affects the entire group.

Over these three days I have not had to raise my voice, yell or put these students in the naughty corner. This shows that another way is possible, even though so often I have otherwise been in that class, group or team where getting people to listen comes from intimidation, authority and making sure they know who is in charge.

Not once have I had a group of students tell me that they want their school camp experience to be marked by yelling, upsetting each other and creating a space of conflict, discomfort and separation. Not once. I have the ability to lead in this regard, and it begins with the first interaction with my students.

I remember I used to once think and tell myself that it would be wrong to smile on the first day. How wrong I was. To hold back who I am, the warmth of my smile and an invitation for students to feel – that just does not make sense anymore.

Yes, I believe in direction and responsibility and even more strongly, my role of ensuring the safety and welfare of my students: with this I see how presenting my students with an opportunity and the responsibility to feel and choose how they want their school camp experience to be, is pretty amazing.

There is no need for perfection, but there is a sense of a bigger and greater purpose than just ‘me’ out here.

I see and realise the responsibility I have to look after my own self, both during and out of school camp, so that I can offer such a leading way to my students. How can I expect them to understand, feel, respect, consider, nurture and take responsibility if I do not do the same for myself?

I appreciate the opportunities that school camp provides to see friendship, unity, expression and playfulness grow, and the way in which teenage girls can work together to overcome challenges, to understand each other and just be who they truly are. This is our classroom.

All around us we have an opportunity to feel and connect to it, and ourselves. There is nothing more wonderful.


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YouthHarmonyRelationshipsConnectionFriendship

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    By Brianna Croke, Outdoor Guide