Are we there yet?
I spent the last three days of term on camp with 60 year 8 students. My team and I have spent the last term planning this three day extravaganza to Phillip Island … and, for the most part, it went off without any major hitches!
However, I am still mulling over the question “Why did only 60% of our year 8 student population attend the camp?”
Is this a one-off occurrence or what is it about the culture of the school that creates an attitude that says “It’s OK to choose not to attend this learning activity”?
Camps are an important part of extracurricular activities. There are lots of good reasons for schools to run camps. In this instance we clearly defined our “learning intention” or goals when we started to plan. We have been working with the year 8s all year to improve relationships, build teams and practice the skill of working cooperatively with anyone in a variety of teams. Our school works on a homeroom system in yr 7 and 8; students stay in the same homeroom with the same HR teacher for their two years in the junior sub-school. In year 9 they are regrouped and mixed up to form new homerooms. In preparation for this we set up a number of situations that required students to work in teams of varying sizes to complete tasks (duty groups, dorm rooms, activity groups). They were given choices about group composition (although dorm rooms were limited so teachers had to intervene and negotiate to achieve workable groups) and could work with anyone across the year level.
The camp we attended on Phillip Island offers a range of adventurous activities designed to challenge students and take them out of their comfort zone. We also planned an ‘Amazing Race’ (based on the TV show). We had a lot of fun putting this together; it was a lot of work to gather resources, write clues and coordinate the pit stops. When we suggested the idea to students before camp the responses were positive and on camp most students gave the race a red hot go! In three days it was interesting to see students work together in ways you can’t achieve in the classroom environment.
Camps are not holidays! They are a lot of additional work, stress and responsibility. They are an extension of the learning environments we create in our classrooms. However, when one third of the students are not participating in that learning experience we need to question why. If one third of my students don’t attend my class on any given day I ask why!