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There are many things that could be said about the industrial revolution but a very simple perspective observes that the basic lives of rural and country people were abandoned as people flocked to live in the great cities of the World. Urbanisation became a reality and the once intimate knowledge owned and lived by rural and indigenous communities became lost and a new reality for living emerged.

It is interesting to note that we have come to a point today where people like Jamie Oliver in association with local, state and federal western governments are mounting programs to teach children where food comes from – milk comes from cows or goats not bottles; meat comes from slaughtered animals, and bread from grain, not packets.

This kind of personal experience has a powerful impact because it is characterised by direct clear instruction, competent demonstration and real physical encounters – the same qualities that make Outdoor Education a potent learning opportunity for boys who in general terms have a need to be taken beyond their comfort zone.

It is important to understand that Outdoor Education is not accidental nor is it ad hoc but it is strategic and deliberate. The places that the boys are taken beyond their comfort zone are safe but they are designed to challenge.

Take for instance the boy who is about to go caving for the first time. The situation is safe because the staff are qualified and have planned the experience but the perception for the boy is that it is dangerous and he feels some degree of fear and anxiety. In this scenario, the boy completes the challenge successfully with the help of staff and friends and in the process discovers not only that he enjoys the experience but his caving ability is better than he imagined. He also discovers that he has a new mate who is very impressive in the challenge and that he has a teacher who is a great instructor – he learns interdependence.

In the example given, the boy has also become aware of the beauty of the surroundings and develops a sense of his insignificance at one level and at the same time the profound nature of his own existence. This boy is now better equipped to assist and support other boys not only because he has completed the challenge but now he has a heightened sense of empathy towards others and feels empowered to take the lead if called upon – he understands what it is like to feel vulnerable and the need to be dependable.

The many experiences available through Outdoor Education potentially give boys a new appreciation for life that may include things like:

  • The way that we view the passage of time and the way we use it
  • Respect for the natural world with all its complexity
  • Differing priorities in relationships
  • Sense of compassion, empathy an increased sense of personal responsibility

Written by Mr Mike Pitman, Director of Glengarry, The Scots College.

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The Presbyterian Church (New South Wales) Property Trust T/A The Scots College, Sydney Australia
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William Elder


Mr Alan Elder was born in Scotland and migrated to Australia with his parents at a young age. He attended The Scots College for all his schooling, graduating in 1944. He played 1st XI Cricket and was a member of the College Cadet Unit. After leaving school Mr Elder studied accountancy and retained a life-long love of the College, especially the Pipes and Drums. Mr Elder never married, however the significant bequest he left will allow his Scots family to remember him through the Lang Walker Business Centre.