Dr Tim Hawkes, Principal of The Kings School, Sydney, suggests that schools must teach boys “…a compulsory experience of living in a community.”
He states that “…Too often the contemporary child is the isolated doughy blob entertained by a range of expensive electronic equipment which limits their interaction to ‘e-relationships. This can lead to children becoming self-centred and unable to take the needs of others into the orbit of their thinking. What some children need is ..(to live)…for 24 hours a day within the chaos of a bickering and restless community. They need to learn to live with people who are different, so that they can operate in a world where annoying people stubbornly remain and there is no delete button to remove them.”
I believe that our school camping program is a far more appropriate avenue for our boys to experience this sense of community. Learning to keep a room tidy, assist with chores such as setting and clearing the table, waiting for others to finish before leaving the table, having to assist in a task, and tolerating those who may be ‘different’ are skills that our boys are exposed to on our Years 3-6 camps. Whilst these skills are important to promote, camps also assist in the development of independence, co-operation, responsibility and confidence, whether it be through tackling the challenge of the giant swing, or just overcoming nerves to spend a night away from home. What is most important in our camping program, however, is that we recognise that just as each boy reads and writes and sings and counts and plays piano and learns chess and completes woodwork at a rate that is individual to himself, so must we acknowledge that each boy is at a different level of emotional development when it comes to camps. If we do not recognise and acknowledge this, then our Compass point of Compassion disappears!
I strongly believe that we must listen to the feelings of our boys, accept and allow nervousness, anxiety, worry….and if camp will prove too challenging, then it just might be that ‘our boy’ is not ready to attend camp this time, or an alternative approach, such as a day stay rather than overnight experience, might be better. After all, we expect some boys to read Harry Potter, but understand that others should only be tackling much shorter Chapter books! Camps are no fun for anyone if a child is desperately homesick, anxious or unhappy.
Our Junior School program reflects our philosophy, in that each year level has a camping experience that provides another developmental stage; our Prep/1s have a pyjama party at school, our 2s a ‘Dads and Lads Evening’, our 3s and 4s spend 2 nights each in Regatta House, Camp Manyung, Mt Eliza (all ensuite toilets, staff and boys under the one roof, one long dining room table…a real home away from home, only 40 minutes away), our Year 5s have an overnight Camp at Sovereign Hill and a 2 night Surf camp at Phillip Island, while our 6s travel to Canberra for 3 nights and sleep in self-contained cabins.