HIGH SCHOOL TRIP TO NORTH WEST ISLAND, THE GREAT BARRIER REEF – NOVEMBER 2019

Snorkel at the drop off and we drift over undersea gardens like a patchwork of villages. Everywhere there is relationship, community; Old Man Stingray is buried in the sand in a canyon of coral alive with parrots, angels, electric blues, butterflies and zebras; and these are just the ones I can attach a name to.  I float through a “bait ball”, checking my thinking. What is bait to a predator is also a constellation of silver slivers, an undersea meteor of sparkling life. A turtle eases by, drift power personified. April says the feeling here is, “I’m ALIVE!” I know what she means, it’s a surge of life and wonder – if we could harness this power the coal could stay in the ground and we’d all live more vibrantly and more in the relationships with those around us.

Dave weaves into wholeness something snapped, it would be easy to discard it. Cade washes avocado pips for a set of juggling balls, a milo tin becomes our fresh water shower…so simple and yet the ingenuity of what we can do once we shift the lens; create replaces consume, what is discarded becomes resource. We can choose not to be slaves to time and convenience, we can tap into turtle-powered drift, become villagers again.  We have travelled to the moon, split the atom but have we even begun to feel and treasure the beauty and life in a stroll along a beach before breakfast?

This High School trip is part of a Geography study on Climate Change. These young people are ripe for a “change in climate”, one where we align our actions with our values, where trust is about having each other’s’ backs, where we can think not just like a human being but like a reef, an island, a planet. We are asking brave questions; how will we go into the apocalypse of our time (apocalypse in the sense of unveiling)? What are the pathways? Driving through western NSW we were shocked by the dried-up river beds and the bare paddocks, by towns over artesian water on water restrictions. Further east there were the out of control fires.  From these experiences, when we talk about crisis and catastrophe, we realise we are not talking about some time in the future. The experience of drought and fires fuel our rage. The beauty and diversity on the island with its stories of cooperation and resilience fuel our hope. They strengthen us in our capacity to meet what lies before us with informed thinking, connected hearts and actions that align with these.  The world around us is classroom and text, abundant in lessons for the learning.

Lynn

High School Coordinator and Geography Teacher

YELLOMUNDEE CULTURAL CAMP: YENAMA BUDGARI GUMARA – Walk with Good Spirit

Years 6 – 10 spent a wonderful day at Yellomundee last Wednesday. Stepping out of the bus after only a 35 minute drive and we already begin to breathe differently. Uncle Lex invites us to sign in to country at an ancient Kangaroo engraved initiation site. We sit amongst trees now decorated with our ochre handprints, in quietness. Breathing deepens, senses awaken, bird activity is everywhere, and even though we are a short distance from a fast travelling roadway, the resilience and presence of this place is palpable.

Later, some wade in the sun sparkling winter river, others shelter beneath casuarinas. After lunch we transform stringybark into rope. When we work together we are strong, Uncle Lex tells us, as he shows us how to twine the separate lengths together to make unbreakable string in preparation for the dance circle. Then we dance for two hours! Uncle Kyle and Aunty Corina showing us how to draw strength from the earth, how to connect inner lives to the beautiful world around us.

Uncle Lex and his crew cook us the most delicious camp dinner I have ever had, then by firelight we share songs and stories, and are entertained by the cheeky Uncle Bidgewong.  Thursday and we arrive back to school. The Kindy and Primary School learn the dances and in the afternoon the whole school shares in a celebration of culture through dance and story.

A big love thank you to Lex, Corina, Kyle, Sandy and crew for this truly special opportunity to be on country, and to John for coordinating on our behalf.  
Lynn

HIGH SCHOOL OUTDOOR ADVENTURE AND INNER EXPLORATION

Big walking, river crossings and learning as we went about the geology and ecology of The Barrington’s and its wild rivers, was at the essence of the 4 day adventure at Wangat  last week. We also explored our inner soul-scapes in connection to this place, opening our senses to the beauty and inter-relationship that was around us, and the wisdom and life lessons we could draw from this and integrate into our lives. One part of our trek was dubbed by the weary, Useless Loop as we descended back to the place we had lunched. Yet we also reflected that it was on this same loop, we had followed a mysterious trail that led to a spectacular forest of grey gums (currently smooth and bold orange trunks). 

We also asked geographical questions such as what happens to a river habitat when it is dammed? And out of an interesting discussion arose another question, What happens to we humans when we dam rivers?  –  this question arising after visiting the huge human-made concrete structure of the Chichester Dam (which is another kind of marvel in itself), then plunging once again into rainforest downstream to arrive at a fig tree likely to be 400 years old!

We finished our river explorations with a river ceremony. From the kernel of our experience of this river system, we recalled other river journeys (including dams) such as Kangaroo Valley and our own Blue Mountains catchment, then went on to consider the critical condition of the Menindee Lakes and its connection to the Murray-Darling river system. For all the rivers, the precious givers of life, we offered a rain song, a moment of care and consciousness. 
Lynn

GEOGRAPHY ON THE ROAD – 7/8 CLASS TRIP 2018

On this round trip of some of NSW’s most iconic places, we tuned our individual heartbeats to the larger rhythms of life and landscapes. In each place we visited, the stories of that place unfolded. We went respectfully, acknowledging country, and opening our senses through quiet contemplative drawing and writing, seeking connectedness to each unique place.

This was Geography on the Road. On the south coast we explored coastal lagoons, rivers that begin in the escarpment and outlet into the sea, sacred mountains and initiation sites, and land use such as the dairy, forestry and whaling activity of past and present. In the South East forest, we visited a remnant Gondwana rainforest and beautiful inland creeks set amongst forest preserved from logging in the nick of time. We travelled to Kosciuszko, crossing the Great Dividing Range and noting the changes in the water cycle and vegetation. We stopped by at Kiandra, an historic gold rush town, and learned about the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme and the proposed plan for Snowy 2 (including discussing the political jostling around renewable energy targets). We then toured a cave in Yarangobilly, swam in a thermal pool  and followed the Tumut River to a caravan park for our first opportunity during the camp to shower and use facilities. In Hay we swam in the mighty Murrumbidgee River, and camped beside it under the stars. En-route to Lake Mungo we observed the productive industrial scale farming of the Riverina dependent on irrigation from the Murrumbidgee. And later, on the way home, we saw the top soils from some of these exposed fields lifting up and whirling east – the source of the dust storms experienced in Sydney and surrounds. This was an opportune time to discuss and think critically about the conventional farming practices we take so much for granted. Then we went on to Lake Mungo, a unique landscape of cultural significance to the world, it was a place where we all experienced the spiritual presence of land and ancestors.

We swam, snorkelled, surfed, clamboured alongside creeks and waterfalls, and walked respectfully on ancient lands. We met Aboriginal teachers along the way who shared culture and wisdom related to place. We took some of these teachings into our reflective circle times; exploring ways to apply three things to live by: spiritual connection to place (where place makes you part of its story), social connectedness  (a sense of belonging as well as of roles and responsibilities), and generosity (asking what we can do for others rather than what we can gain for ourselves). The descriptive writing from our explorations was vibrant, alive with the voice of authentic experience. We also talked about initiation of young people, what it might look like in our time and place. John and I share a sense that camps such as these with a teaching and experiential focus, carry many elements of what underlies initiation for young people. – the path toward independence, freedoms balanced with responsibilities, courage, resilience, ethical choices, learning from country, caring for community and for each other, and tuning your heart in to the larger  rhythm of regenerative life.

You can seed and talk about all of this in a classroom (and we have)…but you can actually experience it and bring it into a lived experience in a two week on the road geography trip! Landscapes and the people connected to them were our primary teachers. Each student identified their special teaching place, the one they felt most connected to and articulating the elements of this experience.  They also identified what they would take away as a thought, feeling and intention for their future lives.

Lynn

Click the links below to view some videos of the journey:

 

Vanuatu Class 9/10

Class 9/10 and I have just returned from a rich and wonderful experience on Pele Island in Vanuatu. It was primarily a glimpse into a very different world from our own; the Pacific Islanders are some of the most vulnerable and also resilient people in our part of the world. We stayed in a small village with a big heart. We came away feeling ourselves connected in a joyful way to a beautiful people, strong in their culture and whose generosity is the foundation of their community life. Lynn. To read about the students experiences please click here: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4fd16fa15a7eac1a3e4e390cb/files/64985edf-a5bc-4a77-b2ae-e3afecec1356/zine_vanuatu.pdf

Kangaroo Valley Canoe Trip

High school ventured for three days (22 kilometres!) of canoeing in the Kangaroo Valley. This is the first camp for 2018, laying the ground for many more challenges, encouraging connectedness, and extending our classrooms way beyond their walls.

Vanuatu by Galileo

Vanuatu, by Ella, Year 10

Geography Lessons on the Road with Year 7 and 8

North West Island High School Camp 2017

Kindlehill high school students travelled to North West Island, The Great Barrier Reef for an ecology/geography fieldtrip in November/December 2017. In geography they studied the impacts of climate change on coral reefs both in the Australian context and on our Pacific neighbours.

North West Island is 75 kilometres from the mainland. Apart from the beautiful coral reef, there are birds nesting and turtles heaving themselves ashore by night to lay their eggs. An experience of wonder for the students, of the richness of reef ecology, also sobering in the context of the impact of climate change that threaten the reef’s future existence.