Students participating in Beacon Explorers, the college’s flagship outdoor and global education program, are eschewing conventional sightseeing tours in favour of more immersive, hands-on experiences.
The program runs from Prep through to Year 12 and offers students a range of outdoor and global activities designed to encourage meaningful learning: from hiking expeditions in the highlands to community service projects in Vietnam and East Timor.
It forms part of the Learning That Matters project, a wider initiative run in partnership with Harvard University to develop collaborative and broad-thinking skills for the future.
This year, Beacon Explorers from Year 10 were given the opportunity to travel to Jabiru, a small community in the Northern Territory nestled in the heart of Kakadu National Park.
The trip was designed as an arts camp where students could learn more about traditional Aboriginal art from the West Arnhem region.
Beaconhills is dedicated to enhancing understanding about Indigenous culture and history by embedding it into the school curriculum at all levels.
While students recognise the local Aboriginal people from their region, the Wurundjeri and Bunurong, the school felt that the Jabiru trip provided an excellent opportunity for students to learn about different Aboriginal cultures.
From the outset, the college wanted to create a shared learning experience, says Lynette George, Head of Indigenous Initiatives at the college.
“It had to be a two-way [experience]... so we didn’t go in as tourists at all.”
During the trip, students visited the Jabiru Area School where they taught local students how to create lino prints and model clay.
In return, Beaconhills students were treated to tours of rock art sites by local Indigenous leaders and introduced to traditional methods of creating art from natural materials.
George says the school’s focus on authentic experiences is particularly important when it comes to learning about Australian Indigenous culture.
Beaconhills wants to provide students with real Indigenous perspectives – “not to have the one-off ‘let’s do Indigenous studies or ‘let’s learn about aboriginals’,” she says.
“[The students] now have a deeper knowledge [about Indigenous art] – it’s not just a painting on a rock. It actually has meaning and a connection to the people.”
“They actually saw people making a living, as well, off their artwork ... and they learnt what real art was and what fake art was and why it’s so important to be a conscious buyer...”
George says the feedback from students about the trip has been overwhelmingly positive.
“They actually said they want more of their teachers to do this tour and maybe some parents.”
She is excited about the idea of strengthening the relationship between Jabiru and Beaconhills going forward.
“Maybe in the future we can have some [kind of] exchange... “But that’s a little bit down the track because [the program has] only just started.”
For the moment, the college’s intrepid explorers are focussed on gearing up for the next trip.
“We’ve just had camp selections and we’ve got more children from both campuses [Berwick and Pakenham] eager to go to Jabiru next year...” George says.