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The ‘Self-Reliant’ could be summarised as a journey-based expedition that is the pinnacle of Outdoor Education at Pembroke.

11 November 2019

Its purpose is for students to plan, implement and then reflect on their experience in a pristine location within South Australia, this year based in Mount Remarkable National Park, Flinders Rangers. This expedition aims to enhance the students’ leadership, responsibility, initiative and practical skills as they work together as a cohesive unit while navigating the landscape in a sustainable manner.

It could be argued that the educational experience, and the Outdoor Education subject, are greater than the sum and scope of the content and practical activities. Themes have emerged and evolved but remained fairly constant within this subject. Bush therapy, outward bound, residential educational programs, outdoor education, environmental education and outdoor learning are all terms that summarise similar concepts.

At times we forget what is important within educational settings and find ourselves lost contemplating and dedicating time to inconsequential tasks. Sometimes we need to step back to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. As educators we have a significant platform in which an opportunity lies to empower thousands of bright-eyed students for a greater purpose. It is this process that often cements the answer to a fundamental question in the profession of teaching—what is the purpose of contemporary education? Personally, the answer is simple. The purpose is to prepare students with the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary to address living in modern society, both in the present and future. Furthermore, students will need to be educated and informed citizens who are healthy, well-adjusted individuals that can problem-solve to address social and environmental issues. Surely the most prominent issues that the global citizens of today face revolve around environmental sustainability, and health and wellbeing. These broad concepts will require 21st-century skills to address the complex needs of the future.

Personal educational philosophies are inextricably linked with Outdoor Education, as this subject epitomises the concept of preparing students for future times. The core values of Outdoor Education and the Self-Reliant are deeply seeded in those who collaborate in this field of expertise. Teaching and learning is a synergetic process that facilitates independence, resilience, leadership, problem-solving and responsibility. Outdoor Education students make real-life decisions in a setting that involves a level of safety, risk and consequences. They develop a deep connection to nature. Post the Self-Reliant, or any other expedition for that matter, students reflect on the tranquillity, simplicity, beauty, wellbeing and relaxation that emerge through physical challenges and spending time outdoors. Insightful and perceptive self-reflections from students about personal growth through adversity are also significant. Often this is accompanied with feelings of being overwhelmed as the bus ride home enters the bustling traffic of the metropolis.

Personal education philosophy aims to inspire students to find their passion and purpose, to be sustainable ambassadors, and to approach society with a sense of community and connectedness both to each other and the environment in which they live. The Self-Reliant Expedition is a true journey and a symbol that summarises the rich teaching and learning that permeates each campus, discipline and culture at Pembroke School.

Jessica Northcott
Outdoor Education