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Learning Outside the Classroom: Fab Outdoor Education Programme at Australian International School

LearnPost Category - LearnLearn - Post Category - SchoolsSchools

Teamwork, resilience and environmental awareness. Just some of the skills your child will pick up at the new Outdoor Education Programme at AIS.

You know we are great advocates for learning outside a classical set up! Away from screens, closer to nature and big on skill building – the Outdoor Education Programme at AIS is all that and more. We recently spoke to Cameron Barry from AIS on their new outdoor education programme and needless to say mama, it’s absolutely amazing and one we couldn’t wait to share!

Head of Outdoor Education at AIS, Cameron Barry brings over 14 years of experience in teaching outdoor education from early years to senior school. He has seen first-hand how vital outdoor education is for today’s children and their social, emotional and physical development. Cameron explains..

What value does the new outdoor education programme at AIS, bring students?

The new AIS outdoor education program will commence in the 2018 academic year with an aim for every child to enjoy their experience in the outdoors – whether it’s a short day trip in the younger years, or an extended 10 day camp in Secondary School. The outdoors is a wonderful level playing field, which 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.

Now more than ever, with the pressures of digital technology, rising youth depression and increases in childhood obesity, we need to encourage our children beyond the classroom by providing enriching connections to nature. It’s not the solution to these problems, but a means to improving every child’s well being, sense of worth and confidence.

So, what would a typical trip or camp be like?
We recently organised an outdoor trip to Gunung Ledang in Malaysia, where a group of 9 and 10 year olds travelled to take part in activities such as river tracing, waterfall and jungle hiking, firelighting, cooking damper, navigation and shelter construction. The objective of the trip was to take children outside of their comfort zone by exposing them to challenges in the outdoor environment. They encountered many physical, mental and social challenges including slippery rivers, challenging hikes, being away from mum and dad and living in a confined space with other students who they wouldn’t normally mix with!

A highlight of the trip was the waterfall walk, which became a natural waterpark for the children. 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. It was also interesting to watch them managing their own living space – tidying up and keeping things organized – things that they might not ordinarily do in their daily lives.

What types of outdoor trips can students at AIS can look forward to?
The younger students at AIS, can enjoy local day trips to Pulau Ubin, MacRitchie Reservoir, Sungei Buloh Wetlands (amongst others) or a 1-day trip to St John Island, Sembawang Park and similar locations with a local wildlife expert. From Year 3 onwards we plan to take them for a 2-day programme of high ropes and kayaking at Camp Sembawang or 4-5 day programmes at Gunung Ledang in Malaysia, and Pulau Sibu. (Year 4 and 5 respectively). For the older children, you could be looking at a longer trip (as many as 10 days away) and including activities such as caving, overnight camping, community service and even walking through the jungles of Chiang Mai!

Regardless of your child’s age, the outdoor programmes are built to instill leadership. For example, hiking and bushwalking requires there to be a natural leader in the group to keep people motivated and moving forward. During certain activities such as 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.

If my child were to start afresh at AIS, will he/she be able to adjust to the programme?
For a student who is settling in, the teamwork and group activities contribute in a big way towards building their sense of belonging. Within the programme, students will be in 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 5 days on an outdoor education programme than you can in a whole school year through just observing them in a classroom.


A lot must go into planning the outdoor excursions  – are students involved in this process?
We believe in involving our students right from the word go. Students will engage in meetings with their teachers and their group prior to the trip to talk about what to expect on the trip. For instance, we will show photos of some of the key locations they will be exploring and talk through the activities to ensure they feel fully prepared. Team packing sessions will include discussions on what they need for the trip ahead. In the older years students will get involved in buying food in advance, learning key skills such as budgeting, rationing and teamwork. It’s a collective effort and one that they learn from, at every stage, before and during the trips!

Thank you Cameron! The new Outdoor Education programme truly supports AIS’s mission of providing a holistic, well-rounded education for all children regardless of their academic abilities.

Find out more at their Open House on Wednesday 6 December (Early Years) and Thursday 7 December (Elementary and Secondary). Sign up today! 

Australian International School,

Brought to you in partnership with AIS

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