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.
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.
WHAT AN EPIC ADVENTURE! A 3000km round trip to some of the most iconic NSW environments. One of the exercises we did in each place was to observe, draw and write about place, then to draw a life lesson from it. The idea was to connect each landscape with our inner soulscape…..below are some life lessons from the students:
….to be like rocks that can get smashed by waves and still stand strong…. Imi
…to be like the old tree and shelter what is smaller and more vulnerable…..Nissa B
…even the moss on the tree root provides shelter and plays a vital role in the cycle of life…..Ella
….if you want to create something amazing, patience is a virtue….Sofia
….the trees stand tall creating shadows to protect creatures below from the burning sun….Oliver
…sometimes it seems someone is blocking your path but if you find a different perspective you may find they are helping or just doing what they need to do….Nissa S
…you have to look past the surface to find true beauty…Kai
…tide in, tide out; good days and bad but don’t give up…..Luca
…out of destruction comes construction; the eruption of the volcano created this special place….Oscar
…these places are special, look after them….Olivia
…don’t let others control you, be who you are and do what you feel is right….Tara L
…people should work together and not only look after themselves…..Amanda
…cooperate with each other; coldness of water and warm of rock….difference can be a bigger attraction than similarity….Belle
….be like the upright tree rather than the vine that is always in need of support….Tara M
AND FROM ME, reflections on each person through the lens of one of the landscapes visited….
Oliver….Riverina wetlands, quiet waters, shady river gums, haven for waterbirds and playful wrens, as well as the lessons in resilience of flood and drought.
Sofia….Water falls into deep mountain crystal clear pool. Sculpted stone is sunwarmed and inviting.
Olivia…Everywhere you go, invisible breath of life becomes audible as birdsong, pound of wave, rustle of leaves and cool caress to the cheek on a hot afternoon.
Amanda…..Light footed dance of sunlight across waves. Spark and fire meet cool deep ocean.
Oscar…Sunset boy, paints a new scene at evening of the gatherings and gleanings from the observations and reflections of the day.
Tara L….sun warmed and salted ocean pool, safe harbour for the host of tiny, tidal sea creatures.
Tara M….Lagoon life, the slow flow of luxuriantly lulling tidal journeys, drift and dream…
Kai…eyes of night, campfire constellations, telling stories of the deeds of the brave hearted.
Belle….sun filled tree lined mountain valley. Cascading stream trips, twists and tumbles. Every boulder a chance to leap into sunlight.
Nissa B…spare low blue smoke bush, protection from beating sun. Lift your eye to luminous shimmer along distant dunes of an ancient world.
Imi….Sunrise, eye of day, magical painter of landscapes; paints your day rich and wonderful, or spare and uncomfortable. Rises in wonder to the challenges of both.
Nissa S…Pick you up wild ocean; kiss you, tumble you, smooth and soothe you. Moods of the sea for the savouring.
Jasmine….Sacred place, shore to the mother mountain. Waves lip lap over and around the boulders, connecting mother land to sister sea.
Luca…Wide blue sky as far as the eye can see; light filled observer of life, warms the land and sends the odd clearing shower to get the life flowing again.
Ella…Rainforest, beneath the towering emergent, layers of sheltering canopies. Tall, twisting, tiny, strength and delicacy, critters that bite and medicine for tea. Everything connected.
Journeyman Dan…what connects it all? Senses honed by experience. Sense of wonder, sense of adventure, sense of fun, sense to travel safely, and sense to take the time to be nourished along the way.
Cheers everyone, Lynn
PELE ISLAND is mother to 4 villages. There is a rare peacefulness here, a sense of bounty in simplicity. The gardens and the ocean sustain the families. They are glad every day for the sun and rain that nourishes their lives in every aspect. They take time through the day to express their gratitude and renew their source of strength in communal prayer. There is island time, no hurry, no deadline, a flow and ebb. Tide in, tide out.
Cyclone Pam in 2014, shocked the people, it put cracks in everything they have known. In 2016 they talk about it as part of broader cyclone impacting on their lives – climate change. They speak of adaptation: they have to garden differently now, consciously care for the oceans, restore the reef, build sea walls against rising sea levels, plant food trees and cut down only what is to be wisely used. What is intact is the vibrant sense of community and the people’s resilience in the face of struggle. They are used to struggle, life is basic and hard – “Struggle makes you Perfect”, is their school motto! Our experience of the Pele villagers was of bounty in simplicity, generosity and warmth unbounded.
In our days on Pele, we toured the island, saw the impact of the cyclone and listened to their stories of it. We saw the gardens where everyone in the community works daily for a few hours. We saw the new plantings of coconuts to replace those lost in the cyclone. We planted a coral garden as part of an effort to restore the reef, we gathered rocks to make a sea wall against erosion caused by rising tides. We sang and prayed in church on Sunday and before every meal – we were blessed several times a day and by so many different people in the community. We played with the children, we visited the school (now mostly Unicef tents) and the kindy. We exchanged gifts and participated in simple but meaningful ceremony almost every day. We were so thoroughly and generously welcomed by our hosts.
From the fundraising events, we made a gift to the community centre (also an evacuation shelter) and to the proposed Women’s craft centre (as a means of income for women). Every one of us feels that we would be welcomed back with open arms to this beautiful community.
On Efate, we visited Pango village and built a water tank (paid for with our fundraising effort) for a mother and her children. We snorkeled on the lovely Hideaway Island where the friendliest fish in the world live. Our hearts and minds are brimful with an appreciation for bounty in simplicity, and for the resilience of people whose lives are hard every day and yet also permeated by a sense of belonging, beauty and community. Ironically, the very things we in the west are struggling to find.
The students were perfect! They were open and courageous. They were appreciative and playful. They supported each other. They were able to place themselves into the lives of another people, to consider their own relationship as privileged westerners to our pacific neighbours, and to reflect on the significance of a visit like this in the shaping of their own lives.
How can a few lines capture the beauty of what was happening in this place? Wednesday to Thursday, the whole school camped at Euroka clearing. Some of us even saw the Gurrangatch. What an amazing camp this was – Chris Tobin took us through the great wisdom and relevance of Aboriginal culture for all Australians, Leanne Tobin led us in indigenous games, Peter Williams and the Waradah Dancers had us all on our feet dancing Emu and Kangaroo, Katy Squires showed us a sweet weaving technique and Wayne Cornish told a story about the black swan that has meanings on many levels for young and older.
On my way to camp, I was aware of what was unfolding in Brussels. A strange feeling heading to sunshine, good company, rich learning and beauty – knowing it is not the experience of so many in the world. Yet once there, I realized again, there is a solidarity in the awareness itself, and there is the also the contribution – being part of shaping this community as inclusive, fair, generous and compassionate. It is not the whole solution but it is a SEED and there is power and nourishment in that !
A massive THANK YOU to all who contributed to this camp. It was a big undertaking. Preparation, transport, support at the camp, pack away and clean up, as well as the many activities on the days that were so enjoyable for the children and all that participated. Toward the end, as the busloads of children drove away, you could feel nature moving in again to reclaim the space where we had been so active….Kindlehill is a tiny part of the story of that place now… Thank you to country, generous host.
Canoeing down the Kangaroo River in warm, late summer, sounds idyllic. Yet beneath the tranquil scene captured in a photographic moment, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. 26km of perseverance in paddling, in shared canoes with gear, that requires cooperation and on the job skill development in steering and finding a rhythm. Setting up camp – looking after self, your “team” and the group as a whole in low impact self sufficient camping
Everyone had challenges to meet. Just being immersed in a natural environment, without familiar home comforts, can feel like a fish out of water. The perseverance factor was big, the keeping on going when you think you can’t. Then there was the courage jump, rock to river. And the getting along with 20 others who don’t necessarily think and act the way you do!
These out of classroom experiences test us; they support us to develop independence and tolerance in real situations. The ‘nature’ time nourishes us and at the minimum sets up a respectful relationship to the environment which hopefully deepens into a love and sense of responsibility to co-operate rather than exploit.
Return now to the tranquil picture. Early morning, mist rising on the river, canoes gliding and a call/response Aboriginal river song (learned in the singing group) greeting the river and the bushland either side……Beautiful!
An exhausted but deeply satisfied, Lynn
High school trip to North West Island, Great Barrier Reef
Waves have eloquence. They bring to shore the stories of faraway lands and depths of ocean. They are whisperers of news while they wash the shore. The tide brings tidings to this island, 75 kilometres from her mainland neighbours though only a turtle swim to nearby masthead.
You might think, being an island in the midst of big seas that it would be a quiet existence but days are bustling with the come and go of noddies, pairing and nest building, raising their chicks. And under the pearly light of moon, the shearwaters nourish their young, calling comfort to each other in ethereal cries. And turtles heave themselves shoreward, sighing heavily with the labour of digging a safe haven in which to leave their eggs.
Then there are the visitors to the island. Firstly Ella, graceful and slender as the beach Casuarina. She is the ARTIST, painting the ever changing dance of light on the water. She turns a walk into a work of art and wearing a dress into an occasion.
Then there is Bella, the ADVENTURER, whether setting off solely around the island at sunrise or in writing a pithy song. There is a love of life in Bella and a craving for experience to match the boldest pirate of long ago.
Sashka is the NURTURER and CELEBRATOR of life. Gentle, generous soul. The footprints she leaves on this island will linger, a memory of one who came and opened her mind and heart.
Olive is the POET, navigator of rich inner worlds. She invites her companions to ride with her the highs and lows of her island “wuthering”. Watch out! I have heard her cackle in the moonlight!
Gali is the PROBLEM SOLVER. Every group needs one. He is the human version of the swiss army knife. His mind is the gadget for every tricky situation, physical and emotional. He builds friendship bridges and when they are tested by storms he builds then again.
Oscar is the COMMEDIAN. Spontaneous, playful and always sharpening his wit on the funny side of life. Like any comedian worth his salt! He is a little bit wise beneath the waves of humour. ….So is that what it means to be a “wise crack”?
Lem is the SHAMAN. He names what he sees going on, not always tactfully. Charming, unpredictable and sometimes a little scary, he demands respect. And he is the one you go to when there is serious heavy lifting to be done.
Willow is the DEVOTEE of life. She is the amazed, wonder filled exclaimer of life. “OH MY LORD!” she says. She is also braveheart – facing her fears and standing up adamantly for herself.
And then there is Dan, the MAGICIAN. Player of cards and man of tricks, revealer of nature’s treasures and dissolver of boundaries. Man of many guises, man with Frisbee, man with a sea star in his hand, man with the child alive in his whole being.
Then there is me, pull and tug like a tide, insistent as a sunrise, believer in mermaids, sharing the wisdom from the book of nature, lifting the veil on that which is beholden in the heart’s eye.
The island has been generous host to us all. We guests leave her table, appetites sated. We have experienced her boundless beauty and the rich intricacy of life on the reef. We are in deep gratitude for her existence. We leave the island with a clearer understanding amongst each other, 8 days on an island has its challenges; from the isolation, minimalist camping, facing fears, to the social cohesion of the group.
As for me, the island has become a friend to call up when I need some nourishing. I’m leaving her my number, one day she may have need of it and I will without hesitation, be there for her.