20 Nov, 2022
Today is Universal Children’s Day with this year’s theme being, ‘Inclusion for every child’.
There are numerous scholarly articles that point to the overwhelming benefits of inclusion for students. These include fostering a greater sense of belonging and community, increased positive academic and social justice outcomes, a positive sense of self-worth, improved behavioural development, greater independence and enhanced communication and language development.
For our outdoor education instructors, inclusion is at the core of all the programs and activities they run for school and community groups, both at The Tops and Greenstead Valley. The stories they share can attest to its importance, like Jack’s story.
Jack went away with his high school year group on a multi-day wilderness trip at Greenstead Valley.
The camp experience involved hiking through steep and difficult terrain, setting up camp each night and cooking in small groups. Jack mentioned to his teacher that he was anxious about going away on the trip as he had never been away like this before and felt like he wasn’t ready or fully prepared.
Jack was a part of a small group of students, most of whom were not in his friendship group. He was concerned that he would not get on with the others in his group. He found however that through the shared experiences, he learned more about his classmates and discovered that they were different to what he had previously thought of them. While walking together, his peers encouraged him to keep going, helping him with his heavy pack. At the campsite, students helped each other set up their tents, and even gave Jack some helpful tips on cooking the evening meal.
On the final night of camp, the students were sharing what they had learned about themselves and others. Jack’s reflection was, “I persevered through camp because my friends and classmates helped me. They supported me all the way. People actually act differently in different places—especially out in the bush. I don’t think I’ll be so quick to judge people now—not from one experience of them.”
Jack’s teacher concluded, “It was moving to hear students acknowledge how they had perceptions of people in the group which were wrong. They acknowledged how foolish this was and expressed joy at new connections. Our group was three distinct friendship groups on the first day but by the end, this was almost all but broken down and I saw people make connections and learn to appreciate people they didn’t know before – this is the value of these camps – personal growth and learning empathy for others.”
This experience in Greenstead Valley shows that everyone matters and that through our instructor-led outdoor education experiences—connections can be made and walls can be broken down. This story is a great testament to our teams at The Tops and at Greenstead Valley.