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Which school sends kids to learn outdoors?

Head of Outdoor Education at the Australian International School (AIS), CAMERON BARRY, says it’s more important than ever to provide students with positive and enriching experiences in nature.
AIS outdoor education programme
AIS outdoor education programme challenges kids to think for themselves

What does AIS hope to offer students through this new outdoor education programme?

We see the tremendous educational, social, physical and emotional value of reconnecting our students with the outdoor environment through a carefully structured, progressive outdoor education programme. Spending time in the outdoors is without doubt a means to improving every child’s wellbeing, sense of worth and confidence. The outdoors is a wonderful level playing field. It gives every child the opportunity to be themselves, develop stronger social relationships, strengthen bonds with teachers, and more importantly gain a better understanding of themselves. Children grow through reflection and positive experiences, and we try to provide these experiences through the programme. Students will be organised into mixed groups that are different to their normal class groups. Being away from the daily routine of school and the constant influences of technology, children can really be themselves and let their true character shine through, helping them to make genuine relationships. Many of our teachers believe that you can learn more about a student in five days on an outdoor education programme than you can in a whole school year through just observing them in a classroom!

Tell us about a recent school trip and what the students got up to.

A group of Year 4s (ages nine and 10) recently travelled to Gunung Ledang in Johor, Malaysia. The objective of the trip was to take them outside of their comfort zone by exposing them to challenges in the outdoor environment. They encountered many physical, mental and social challenges. Slippery rivers, challenging hikes, fire lighting, cooking damper, navigation, being away from their parents and living in a confined space with other students who they wouldn’t normally mix with. A highlight was the waterfall walk, they thoroughly enjoyed getting wet, swimming and sliding in the rapids and cheering each other on. It was a pleasure to see them away from technology and just being kids. I was also interested to watch them managing their own living space – tidying up and keeping things organised – things that they might not ordinarily have to do in their daily lives. This helped them to develop independence and problem-solving skills.

These kinds of trips must also help to promote leadership skills.

Yes, many of the activities – hiking and bushwalking, for example – require there to be a natural leader in the group to keep people motivated and moving forward. During rock climbing or zip lining, children can feel quite nervous and it takes a lot of courage to be the one who steps forward and goes first. This is a great way of instilling good leadership skills and helping children understand that leadership is not about being the best, it’s about setting a good example for others around you.

Does the programme encourage a sense of care and respect for the environment?

The whole focus is on the outdoors and the natural environment. For example, during the waterfall walk in Malaysia, many children noticed that there was rubbish at the side of the river. They started to question why it was there and what impact it was having on the natural environment. Seeing issues like this on a small scale encourages them to think about wider problems of pollution and environmental hazards and how these may be harming the world. The outdoor education programme begins in Prep and runs right the way through to Year 12. Students who stay with AIS for a number of years will get annual exposure to these kinds of experiences. Repeat visits to outdoor environments help students to develop a better understanding and a better appreciation of nature.

Do the students have to do any preparation ahead of a trip?

Students attend meetings with their teachers and their group prior to the trip to talk about what to expect. They’re shown photos of some of the key locations they’ll be exploring, and they talk through the activities to ensure they feel fully prepared. Team packing sessions are held to ensure everyone has what they need for the trip ahead. In the older year groups, students get involved in buying food in advance, and learning key skills such as budgeting, rationing and teamwork.

AIS outdoor education programme
Getting wet was never so much fun

Sample Camps

Whether it’s a short day-trip in the younger years or a multi-day camp for seniors, every child in every year can enjoy an outdoors experience at AIS. Here’s an example of what’s on offer:

• Prep and Year 1: A local day trip either to Pulau Ubin, Saint John’s Island, MacRitchie Reservoir, Sungei Buloh Wetlands, Labrador Nature Reserve or Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

• Year 3: A three-day experience encompassing one night of camping at Singapore Zoo and one night in dormitories at Camp Sembawang. Activities include low ropes, raft building, kayaking and orienteering challenges at Sembawang Park.

• Year 5: Five-day coastal programme of camping, kayaking, hiking and snorkelling in Tanjung Leman or Pulau Sibu, Malaysia.

• Year 7: Five-day programme of caving, overnight camping, introduction to expedition skills, swift water rescue, rafting, hiking and rope activities in Ipoh, Gopeng, Malaysia.

• Year 10: Nine days in the jungles and valleys of the Mae On Valley, Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, incorporating camping, community service, hiking, caving and rock climbing.

Brought to you by: Australian International School
1 Lorong Chuan
6653 7906 | ais.com.sg

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