UC Camping continues to explore new options and work with clients to create meaningful and valuable programs. The Galileo Program at University High School is a term-long, intensive inquiry based educational program for Year 9 students. The program aims to support students to become independent, active and self-aware learners through participating in a series of collaborative and experiential learning activities. UC Camping are thrilled to support UHS in this program and offer an Outdoor Education program that can be incorporated into broader educational goals.
The last few days of autumn and into winter saw UCC staff from Merricks Lodge head away from the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula and into the forests of Western Victoria with 47 Year 9 students from University High School for a journey based camp. This was the second of four journey camps to be run by UCC for UHS’s Galileo Program in 2012.
For Galileo students, the hiking camp provides the opportunity to integrate personal and social learning through participation in authentic challenges requiring independence, accountability and team skills. Students are responsible for planning, managing equipment and cooking, with the aim of extending their peer networks, further develop team-building, resilience and leadership skills. The camp commenced with equipment and gear packing session in the UHS gymnasium, from there it was onto the busses and out west. The first stop of the trip was Serendip sanctuary, just north of Lara, which served both as a lunch stop as well as an opportunity to introduce the students to some of the rarer fauna of Victoria’s western basalt plains. Once widespread plains grassland are now one of the most threatened environments in the country, covering a mere 1% of historic range. Managed by Parks Victoria Serendip abounds in wildlife, including wallabies, emus and pademelons, furthermore Serendip is home to captive breeding programs of two iconic bird species once prevalent across much of Western Victoria, the Brolga and Bustards.
A short trip from Serendip put us in the in the Brisbane Ranges National Park. From here the campers were broken down into three overnight hike groups. From varying starting points each group had a relatively short walk into their overnight campsite, where under guidance, the students were responsible for the setting up and maintenance of the campsite. Whilst comfort zones and preconceptions may have been pushed and prodded camp was established and with the aid of the trusty trangia, hearty meals were enjoyed by all. The highlight of the evening must surely have been the campfire, with obligatory marshmallows, and the tales and discussion that ensued.
Day two of the trip saw each group spend most of the day on the trail, walking on average 11km, with the students taking an active role in the navigation and decision making aspects of the walk. One of the great things about being out on the trail is the number of different environments that can be experienced, from lush fern filled gullies to rocky ridge lines dominated by Xanthorias. With the students’ possessing maps this enabled them to take ownership of the hike and make informed decisions, such as where and when was a good time to break for lunch.
At the completion of the walks there was a hive of activity among the students, eager to share and compare their experiences of the past 24 hours. Many were amazed at how the relatively short time away from their peers had felt substantially longer in an outdoor environment. Following the catch-up it was on to Ballarat for the second night of the camp. After setting up tents the students were once again heavily involved in the preparation of the evening meal, where the discussions of the previous 24 hours were just as topical. The second evening also provided the students with an opportunity to build on their relationships in an environment separate from school or social.
The final day of the trip commenced with the obligatory pack up and the ever welcome breakfast, followed by a reconnection of the hike groups for a reflection and debrief session. Whilst this wasn’t embraced by all, it was valuable for all to compare and contrast the night on the trail as a small group and what had been learned and achieved with the night all together in base camp. I for one wish I had the some of the insight and depth of thought these 15yr olds displayed when I was that age.
With everything packed it was then back on the road to nearby Mt Buninyong, an extinct volcano which forms a part of the Victorian volcanic plain, the third largest volcanic plain in the world. The forested summit of Mt Buninyong rises 200m above the surrounding plains and offers superb views, stretching all the way to Port Phillip Bay. Students were given the option to do one last hike to the summit or be driven to the top. The viewing tower atop Mt. Buninyong was a highlight for many of the students, giving the opportunity to gaze across the landscape they had recently hiked through.
The final stop for the day was back in Ballarat where the students were responsible for running their own tourist trail in the centre of town. In the weeks leading up to camp the students were tasked with creating their own walking tour of the historic town. Keeping true to the ethos of the Galileo program, the students selected a variety of sites to explore in order to make a comparison between their familiar life in Melbourne and life in a rural centre.