No social media, no problem for kids attending Victoria’s wilderness leadership schools

By Jessica Longbottom

Posted

March 05, 2017 14:58:00

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Kids at the Marlo campus learn outdoor skills like canoeing. (ABC News: Jessica Longbottom)
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Marlo 3888
(Supplied: Mel Wuethrich)
‘Everyone loves each other’The school was established in 2000 by former Liberal education Minster Phil Gude as a way to give public school students a “private school” experience.It was modelled on Geelong Grammar’s Timbertop, which was attended by Prince Charles.Students have to undergo a tough selection process within their own schools to be accepted.At any one time, there are students from four rural and four city schools, with many of the teenagers getting to know each other for the first time.They sleep, eat and learn together, rising at 6:30am and attending activities until 8:30pm.They only have one day off a week. There’s a demand and willingness on behalf of the government,” he said.The Department of Education said it was working with the school on the proposal and it would be subject to future budget considerations. Photo:
Students working together building a bridge at the Marlo campus. They’re fantastic.”The school’s overall principal Mark Reeves said a decision should be made on the two new campuses in the next two months.’We’re confident they’ll go ahead. Instead, the students participate in outdoor activities, classes on problem solving and leadership activities.”If building other campuses was driven by data alone, then we would have ten more campuses,” Marlo campus principal Robyn Francis said.”The outcomes for our students are excellent … our dream would be for every public school student to have access to one of our programs.” Approximately 540 year nine students are selected from public schools around the state every year to attend one of the campuses for approximately ten weeks.However that only works out to roughly 2 per cent of Victorian public school year nine students. (ABC News: Jessica Longbottom)
‘Watch them shine’The experience aims to give students the skills to become future leaders.”We find that the individuals who participate in our programs are more independent, more confident, more willing to get out there and have a go at things and not fall in a heap so they develop resilience while they’re here as well,” said Ms Francis.She said the school’s research showed that former Indigenous students were more likely to stay in secondary school and pursue university studies after attending.Students on the whole were also more likely to take up leadership roles within their communities, with past alumni starting up various projects including those to help the disabled and homeless.”We make the mistake with thinking adolescents believe ‘It’s all about me, it’s all about me,'” Ms Francis said.”But give them an opportunity to do something for someone else and watch them shine. Photo:
The year nine students stay at the school for 10 weeks. (ABC New: Jessica Longbottom)
Afghan migrant Abas Hassani, who arrived in Australia in 2013 and usually attends Dandenong High School, said he loved the experience.He was tying up logs for a bridge-building exercise with his classmates.”We have already met 45 kids in like a week but everyone’s like… best friends, everyone loves each other,” he said.Principal Robyn Francis said it was not unusual for students to be getting their first experience outside Melbourne at the school.”One of the past students had never been to the ocean before and we took him fishing in the estuary,” Ms Francis said.”He waded out in his tracksuit pants with his fishing rod, sat in the ocean and he just couldn’t believe how lucky he was.”Social media and mobile phones are not allowed.But that does not phase Max Dunston, 14, who was preparing for a canoe trip.”We have 44 other people we can speak to and talk to and find out about… I haven’t been missing [social media] at all,” he said.”I’ve been loving it so far.”

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Students at this school learn tai chi rather than taking normal classes. A wilderness adventure experience for Victorian public school students has been so successful it looks set to be expanded, giving more teenagers the chance to learn outdoor and leadership skills.The Victorian Government is looking at establishing two new School for Student Leadership campuses in the Yarra Valley and the Grampians.They would be in addition to the three existing campuses: at Marlo in far east Gippsland, Mount Noorat in the western districts and Dinner Plain in the Victorian Alps.There are no regular classes at the schools.