Out of the classroom and into the world
YEAR 9 students at St Andrew's Anglican College experience life from a different perspective thanks to the unique Connections Program which enables them to get out of the classroom and into the world.
They recently embarked on the first of their week-long, off-campus academic experiences exploring one of three different destinations of Brisbane, Melbourne, and Stradbroke Island.
Teacher and co-ordinator of the Year 9 Connections Program Jonathan Harding said the trips are strategically timed to help students maintain their focus and interest for the whole year.
"The cohort is split into three groups, travelling to either Melbourne, Brisbane or North Stradbroke Island for a week-long experience and then rotating to another location in Terms 2 and 3,” he said.
"Each experience presents students with real-world problems to examine and explore.”
The program is an integral part of the Year 9 curriculum which embodies deep academic learning, cultural insight, independence, social and personal challenge, community mindedness, adventure and celebration.
From assisting with a soup van for the homeless in Melbourne to hearing presentations by indigenous elders on Stradbroke Island, Mr Harding said the trips are all about 'real world, real life experiences' that sow seeds for the future.
"When students go to Melbourne and Brisbane they're getting exposure to the urban life in a way they aren't usually, such as crowds of business people going to work, or homeless on the street,” he said.
"We're good at sheltering our children at home, but when we take them to the city that kind of stuff is impossible to hide.
"They get real experiences which help them build independence, confidence and empathy.”
The multicultural experience is further enhanced on the North Stradbroke Island trip where students listen to presentations by indigenous elders from the Quandamooka People.
"Students are presented with questions and topics of discussion on unfamiliar situations which enables them to think about complex ideas such as beliefs, values, culture, politics and the economy,” Mr Harding said.
"At the beginning of the trip students are quick to make judgements, but by the end they're not so sure.
"For example, the question of whether mining should be allowed on the island, at first they say 'no'.
"Then we factor in jobs, the economy and tourism along with the first hand stories of indigenous people.
"By the end of the trip they've heard from many sides of the debate and they realise it's not as clear-cut as they thought.”
Along with developing greater cultural awareness and honing their critical thinking skills, the trips are an opportunity for Year 9s to leave their bubble and try new things in unfamiliar environments.
Mr Harding said parents often comment that the trip was life-changing for their child.
An "increase in confidence” is the number one change they see, though for one parent, it was the fact her son expanded his culinary horizons she was most surprised by.
"I still can't believe he ate spicy octopus,” she wrote.