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.

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.

High School Geography on the Road

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

….nature provides….Jasmine

…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

 

Bounty in simplicity: Vanuatu with Year 9 and 10, 2016

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.

Lynn