30 Sep Adventures for life
This week, the entire school will be out on Activity Week – one of the most unique and formative aspects of a Woodstock education. With activities carefully selected to be appropriate to the age-group concerned and accompanied by experienced staff, students will have a remarkable opportunity to explore our stunning Himalayan location. Such is the emphasis we place on this that a student may not graduate from the school without taking part in Activity Week.
Beyond the comfort zone
Our alumni look back on these experiences as some of the most memorable of their whole Woodstock experience. But let me be honest, there are aspects of this program which are not immediately appealing to all our students. It may involve periods of discomfort. It may include conditions that are unfamiliar and demanding. What is more, many of the most significant benefits of this program are not immediately apparent to the young people who engage in them. To be honest, that’s probably the case with most opportunities which move us out of our comfort zones as human beings!
"Some of the most critical qualities of character can best be developed through meaningful engagement with the challenges of the outdoors – resilience, self-awareness, perseverance, team-work and self-discipline to name but a few."
If, amidst the stories of fun, adventure and excitement you hear from your children after Activity Week, you also hear some tales of hardship and challenge – I encourage you to offer praise and reassurance. For it is in these experiences that a Woodstock education finds its deep purpose and young people are shaped into confident, resilient and fulfilled adults.
The research evidence on such experiences is overwhelming. Some of the most critical qualities of character can best be developed through meaningful engagement with the challenges of the outdoors – resilience, self-awareness, perseverance, team-work and self-discipline to name but a few. These experiences are a deliberate and carefully thought-out part of our educational program – certainly not an end-of-trimester after-thought or optional-extra.
"Exposure to challenge, in a secure environment and appropriately reflected upon, can awaken a self-belief and resilience which can last a whole life long."
These activities are purposely designed to take students out of their comfort zones and put them in situations likely to prompt personal growth and development. This is, pre-eminently, a structured approach to experiential learning and it provides our students with exciting learning experiences that are both valuable and memorable. Allowing students to experience a different context to one they normally find themselves in, is a powerful opportunity for learning. The learning which comes from this approach is not just about acquiring new knowledge, skills and information but a deeper level of personal development and understanding.
The principle behind this approach has its origins in the thinking of Kurt Hahn; the founder of Salem School in Germany, Gordonstoun in Scotland, the Outward Bound movement and the International Award Scheme for Young People. Hahn believed that the skills and confidence to deal with unfamiliar situations could be developed and learned. Exposure to challenge, in a secure environment and appropriately reflected upon, can awaken a self-belief and resilience which can last a whole life long. Little wonder that Kurt Hahn used the phrase ‘outward bound’ to describe this program – the nautical term to describe a ship leaving the safety of its harbour to head for the open seas.
The experience of Grade 12 student Saral Tayal, who recently facilitated a visit from a group of 25 girls from Sanathan Dharam School, connects well to the outcomes of the Activity Week experience.
“Touring the school with the Sanathan Dharam girls gave me a lot of perspective about how privileged we are at Woodstock,” says Saral. “Living here, we are often desensitised to the amazing campus, and the opportunities at our fingertips. It really pays off to sometimes take a step back, and appreciate what you have.”
Dr Jonathan Long