Finally, Back on Camp
Wow, what a week it has been. As I approach the end of my first year as Woodleigh School Principal, it has been great to finally experience a Senior Campus camps week. From farewelling buses in the early hours of Friday morning to visiting Junior Homestead camps along the coast, it has been exhilarating to see how the community fully embraces the experiences that our School has to offer.
Each of the camps has a specific purpose and function, and collectively they assemble the typical Woodleigh journey. For our youngest Senior Campus students in Years 7 and 8, this week is about forming connections within their Homestead and developing a sense of belonging. For Year 7 students, these connections will be essential to their ability to flourish during the coming years. For Year 8 students, Camp Week provides leadership opportunities and the chance to further their own connections within their Homestead.
Individual, Eclectic, Real
It has been fascinating to see the individual personalities of each Homestead shine through in their traditions and activities. Older students organising activities for younger students, younger students cooking for older students and so on, all fostering a sense of community and collective care.
For Year 9 students, the experience of hiking and living in the Victorian Alps provides a genuine sense of challenge as students learn about themselves and see how to interact and care for others in a challenging environment. Upon their return, the sense of achievement was palpable, and they all walked a little taller and more confidently after completing the week.
Perhaps the best tale of this year's Camp Week is that of our Year 11 students, who finally had the opportunity to experience Hattah. This camp is a true 'rite of passage' at Woodleigh, marking the transition from the middle to the senior years. During their week walking through the semi-desert environment, students experience independence in a manner that they may never have experienced before. The struggle extends to them understanding their own leadership capacity and learning how to support others in challenging situations. This iconic camp has been part of Woodleigh's culture for many years and is a significant milestone in each Woodleigh student's journey. I am thrilled that our Year 11s didn't miss out on this experience, and I look forward to experiencing some of the magic myself when I visit our Year 10 students later this term on their Hattah Expedition.
This week I have been amazed at the commitment and dedication shown by our staff as they prepare for each camp, Junior and Senior Homestead alike, as well as our Year 10 Work experience program. It is unique for an entire School to go on camps simultaneously, and this requires a massive effort from every staff member, whether attending a camp or working at School with the Year 10 program. Woodleigh staff embrace these experiences as part of their roles, immersing themselves, alongside students, in each program.
I am very grateful for their efforts, not just this week or in the weeks of preparation, but also during the coming weeks, as we unpack these experiences with students.
If ever I had any doubt about what makes a Woodleigh education different, this week has made things extremely clear. We are a school that values experiences and relationships. Real-world experiences that provide opportunities for students to immerse themselves in an activity for a week. Experiences that are challenging and push students to the edge of their comfort zone, and experiences that allow opportunities for connections to be nurtured and developed, not just between students, but importantly, with staff as well.
These relationships, and the experience of total immersion, translate into more engaged and supported students in our classrooms when they get back to School. Our teachers take on the role of mentor, coach, supporter and ultimately teacher; this all helps foster a positive and engaging learning environment for all.