Super camp, Super outcomes!
If ever there was a project that epitomises the heart and soul of FRRR’s REAPing Rewards program, it’s this one.
Six hundred kilometres away from Sydney, the ‘Back-to-Bourke Small School’s Super Camp’ brought together 120 students from 10 small, isolated schools from across the western region of NSW for three full days of workshops, covering science, music and dance, team sports and art.
Public schools from Weilmoringle, Enngonia, Wanaaring, Louth, Girilambone, Hermidale, Nyngan / Marra Creek, Quambone and Carinda participated in the camp, together with students from the School of Distance Education. Except for Nyngan, these towns range from 40 to just over 300 people, and their P-6 Public School enrolments range from 3 (Louth) to 24 (Quambone).
Some students do not have anyone of the same gender or age in their school. So the super camp gave them a rare opportunity to interact with students their own age and learning ability, and participate in activities that they don’t normally get to experience.
Super Camp - Super support!
An 80-strong support contingent came together to facilitate the three-day camp, which was held in Nyngan. In a wonderful display of collaboration, three large private Sydney schools supplied specialist teaching staff and senior students to run the activities and mentor students from the remote communities. Two Uniting church communities (one from Sydney) also lent their support, as did the Nyngan Rotary Club, providing catering for the 200 or so participants.
This extra support meant that the staff from the small schools were free to support their students in the experience.
Margarete Coddington from the Weilmoringle Public School was instrumental in securing an $8,266 grant from the REAPing Rewards program, generously funded by the Ian Potter Foundation, to assist with the camp costs. She summed it up well when she said that it was a spectacular week, with an enormous buzz and great energy that participants are still talking about.
Wider community REAPs benefits
While the focus was on the isolated students, the benefits were felt more broadly, greatly exceeding initial expectations.
Staff from the remote schools had the opportunity to engage in professional development, spending time with other teaching staff, and the students from the Sydney schools had such a wonderful time that many of them chose to return to the remote schools to do their Service Learning projects later in the year.
The Sydney schools are very keen to continue the relationships with the small schools, and have begun some activities such as teaching music by video link.
The congregation from the Sydney Uniting church has formed a committee to help initiate and sustain relationships between city congregations and remote communities, and has already attracted funding to provide ongoing assistance to the ten small communities from the camp.
So it was a win-win experience. Students from the small schools not only had the chance to work with and make friendships with children their own age from other schools, but they also had the opportunity to mix with older students from the Sydney schools. It is hoped that the role modelling of these older students will encourage students to consider further education.
Rural Chaplain Julie Greig said, “I think that sometimes those of us in the bush forget how much people in the city are interested in what happens out here, but this project has shown that there is actually enormous interest. It is hard to describe how much enthusiasm there is from the city participants to do more of this and develop long term relationships that benefit both sides.”