April 30 to May 4, 2012. Chelsea Primary School successfully drew upon the theory and practices of Dewey’s experiential education in a weeklong organised learning that took place in the great outdoors.
The Outdoor Week at Chelsea Primary School enabled students to participate in a variety of adventurous challenges in the form of outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, rope courses, group games, kayaking, archery, bush survival, biking and camping (Year 6 students only). Students also visited the Auckland War Museum for an intense problem solving murder mystery case of Professor Felix, for wild discoveries in the natural history and wild child, an earthquake terror experience and a solemn walk at the war memorial. Bush walks and nature trails developed a deeper relationship with nature through awareness, respect and appreciation of things in our environment.
Several students stretched their comfort zone in rope courses or rock climbing and caused them to challenge themselves physically which in turn led to challenging oneself mentally.
The events emphasised and achieved one or more of these aims: taught outdoor survival skills (camping, tenting, making fire), improved problem-solving and technology skills (Egg tower building and BP challenges), enhanced team work and developed leadership skills (small group activities), developed an understanding of our natural environments (bush and beach walk, nature trail in Waitakere ranges) and promoted unity.
In general, the outdoor education activities helped instill the basic elements of teamwork because participants often needed to work together and to rely on others such as in cooking and Taniwha Swamp challenges, among other activities. Oftentimes, in challenges, they had to make do with whatever resources were available and innovate using these.
And as philosopher John Dewey argued, "if knowledge comes from the impressions made upon us by natural objects, it is impossible to procure knowledge without the use of objects which impress the mind" (Dewey, 1916/2009, p. 217-218), so does Chelsea Primary School works extensively with its teachers, parents and students to develop their outdoor spaces into learning environments.
Ma whero ma pango ka oti ai te mahi
“With red and black the work will be complete.” And so Chelsea Primary School’s Outdoor Week was completed successfully with cooperation and all the generous efforts of the parents, teachers, students and the whole school community.
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