Monday, 1 December 2014

The Good That Comes from a Camp- Lanie Wilton

Some parents and teachers were a bit baffled by the notion that our Middle Years students were going to be having not 1 but 3 camps this year. It can be seen as a bit of a treat or a fun time. I’ll admit, it is both of those, but it can also create huge leaps in learning when students get to really experience new things first hand.  In the words of Guy Claxton - “Immersion in experience is the most fundamental learning mode throughout life”.  Equally the trips have given the students and staff a common ground, a basis to form respect and relationships that comes back to the class room and the community.

In term 3 we took our Middle years students on a trip around the East Coast. This was their second trip this year and my first real camp away with students as a teacher. I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to get to know the students more personally so was looking forward to it. After more fundraising, planning, learning and researching we geared up for our longer end of year 10 days camp to Cape Reinga. It was amazing – for staff and students.

I had hoped that camp would be fun for our students. I had no idea that due to the preparation and planning it would be so full of monumental life learning experiences. Our students had the trip of a lifetime where they saw things that amazed them (wild horses, dolphins, islands, 2000 yr old trees, culture and picturesque landscapes). They also learnt how to dance (traditional style) they learnt more about each other, and most importantly they learnt about themselves. – Their limits, and how they handle new experiences.

Seeing kids settle down after several days without sugar – and eating well was awe-inspiring! If only we could have our students eat foods that assist their learning all the time. On day 7 we were on a bus trip back to camp and didn’t want our campers falling to sleep on the bus (otherwise they would have been up all night) – so we gave each student 2 pieces of chocolate. Well! Within 20minutes the bus was a hive of racus noise, laughter, pranks and energy. It was scary to see how quickly and dramatically that small amount of chocolate affected them.

Our last night of camp (a beautiful formal) dinner was set up with sparkling grape juice for toasting in each wine glass. The sugar rush (from just one small glass of fizzy) was instant and incredible. It was amazing to watch and realise what had affected them. Some of these kids drink and share a 1.5 litre bottle of fizzy before and during a normal school day.

TKAS uses very modern approaches to teaching. I found it interesting how at camp we ended up using some traditional teaching techniques (that we don’t use day to day in TKAS) such as lining up for the bus and when we were in public. At TK we don’t get kids to line up, they simply go from one place to the other as you would with your family when you’re up town. Now, when I visit other schools, and see kids walking in lines I realise how archaic it is. As adults, we do line up for movie ticket ques, but we wouldn’t walk anywhere in two orderly lines!

 “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn, and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” – John Dewey.

I believe these kids have had an amazing year. The expense of travel related costs can put off some schools from even attempting an annual class camp. What those schools don’t see is the learning that can be gained, the engagement of youth – particularly when it can all be linked back into inquiry learning.  “Education is what is left after you have forgotten everything you were taught at school” – Albert Einstein. These kids will never forget this last trip. It is something you can’t put a price on.

Now, some of them have travelled further than their parents have ever been. They have set new boundaries for themselves, “wow now we need to go to the bottom of the south island”.  I believe prior to the trip that possibility would not have entered their minds. They have seen what traffic in a big city actually looks like – “wow is that the traffic you were talking about?” one student referring too 4 cars waiting in a cue was a lot – that was before he saw spaghetti junction and a 8 lane highway in Auckland!

Before these experiences I saw a bunch of kids that need help. Now I see students with their options expanded and individuals with a future.  My job is to help them reach and even stretch them beyond whatever positive future they see in their adult lives


  1. Awesome writing Lanie, my son had a fabulous year. He loves learning and loves being in this learning community. Thanks for al you have done.

  2. Wow Lanie this is awesome! A great piece of writing!