Brisbane Grammar: Learning outside the classroom

Outdoor education has been a feature of Brisbane Grammar School since the 1880s. Thanks to newly acquired land, its students are conquering new challenges.

Opened in 1976, the Outdoor Education Centre on the shores of Lake Moogerah originally hosted geography, earth sciences and biology excursions. Today, boys in Year 5 begin an outdoor education program that builds on skills to develop greater independence each year into senior school. Activities include high ropes courses, rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and camping.

The school’s recent purchase of 154 hectares at Mount Alford has allowed outdoor education staff to expand the students’ outdoor education experience. This year, boys in Years 9 and 10 will climb Pulpit Rock, a volcanic plug in South-East Queensland’s scenic rim as part of their week learning in nature.

While the boys enjoy the outdoor activities, Moogerah is not a holiday camp. Director of Outdoor Education, Derek Jervis, leads a team of specialist teachers who prepare detailed lesson plans to teach risk management and basic survival skills, such as navigation. Boys are encouraged to develop their interpersonal skills, with a focus on leadership, problem-solving, effective communication, teamwork and living in a community.

Mr Jervis says an appreciation of nature and Indigenous culture is also a focus. “Outdoor Education provides the only avenue in education to reconnect with the natural world. When students are immersed in it, they learn to feel comfortable in nature both day and night, which leads to a deep and personal understanding and empathy for the environment,” he says.

“We have permission from the local Aboriginal Ugarapul tribe to tell the boys some of their stories about the area. In the same way, a lesson about early European exploration comes to life when the boys are in the field and can imagine what it would have been like for early settlers.”

Parent of four boys, Will Siganto, is head of the Moogerah support group, which coordinates volunteer working bees at the site. He says physical challenges develop important life skills.

“Why do high ropes, why hike and navigate, why camp out, why do your own cooking, why climb Mount Greville? Well, it’s a week without technology, and a week of fun,” says Mr Siganto. “All of that develops tolerance and mateship, and helps boys tackle fears and anxieties.”

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