Mr James McIntosh, Director of Marrapatta
On Sunday 10 June Brisbane Girls Grammar School will celebrate the twenty-fifth year of Marrapatta—Memorial Outdoor Education Centre. This facility was opened in 1987 by the then Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr A S Gehrmann and was the result of committed and determined contributions from the Girls Grammar community.
The early curriculum initiatives at the Centre were designed to broaden and integrate a range of learning experiences and contribute to the needs of the whole person (Dale, 2000). The programme at Marrapatta reflected the responsiveness of the School to the changing educational climate of the 1980s, which acknowledged the imperative to move beyond purely academic realms and consider more holistic learning approaches.
Outdoor Education had been operating within the School for many years prior to the development of this dedicated campus. However, such a facility enabled a concentrated approach to new curriculum and programme initiatives. The foundation of Marrapatta’s successful programming was laid by the inaugural Directors, Tim and Sue (Head Girl, 1978) Lanham. Buoyed by the School’s proactive response to the changing educational needs of students and the new possibilities Outdoor Education provided, the Lanhams developed experiences that encouraged the growth and personal development of each student.
While the educational landscape has transformed rapidly over the past twenty-five years, the fundamentals of Outdoor Education—education about self, others and the environment, while being adaptive to change—remain steadfast. It seems now, more than ever, that the ability of individuals to have a well developed and resilient sense of self, an ability to navigate, connect and belong within one’s social interactions and to have an authentic connection to the natural world and a sense of place, are the bedrock of effective learning and the foundation of reaching one’s potential (Barrett, 2012; Carr-Gregg, 2012; Nielsen, 2012; Wattchow & Brown, 2011).
Having a firm and responsive launching pad from which to seize opportunities when they surface and the resilience to cope with what life throws up are central pillars to embracing life in modern society effectively. The experiences at Marrapatta strive to broaden this platform by actively engaging students in learning which requires commitment, a focus on others, reflection and ownership of both successes and failures. These are experiences which may be uncomfortable and difficult at times but which necessitate an active response and provide opportunities to adapt and grow. Deak (2002) explains that such layering of experiences and multiple opportunities to develop skills for connecting, coping with different situations and building resilience is of utmost importance for the development of confident and courageous young women.
Many of today’s social commentators clearly advocate for the renewed consideration of how best to cultivate the unique opportunities Outdoor Education can provide. During a keynote presentation at this year’s National Outdoor Education Conference, world renowned child psychologist, Professor Paula Barrett stated that, “Outdoor Education presents many unique opportunities to develop the protective factors within individuals and groups which inoculate against such conditions as the increasing rates of anxiety and depression” (Barrett 2012).
While the central focus of Marrapatta remains the delivery of Outdoor Education programmes to Junior students, it also plays a role in supporting and enriching other curriculum endeavours. Since 2001 it has provided the natural environment from which Year 12 Physical Education students complete their lifesaving unit assessment. Over three days, students apply their skills and abilities developed at the Brisbane campus to authentic scenarios in Yabba Creek. This unique initiative of the Health Studies Faculty is well received by the students and is highly regarded by the Queensland Studies Authority.
Other extension programmes include the Year 11 Geography Field Trip which investigates the water quality and land use issues within the Yabba Creek Catchment, Mathapatta and the Junior Writers programme for Years 9 and 10 students, and the now infamous Cross Country Training Camp. Another opportunity afforded to students in Year 11 is the Camp Seniors Leadership programme where students engage with their leadership development and apply strategies to assist Year 8 classes with their Connections programme.
Brisbane Girls Grammar School is indeed privileged to be celebrating the twenty-fifth year of this special educational facility which contributes to diverse aspects of students’ learning and encourages the growth and development of every Grammar Girl. Marrapatta will continue to encourage girls to connect and belong, develop a robust sense of self, and appreciate the natural world of which they are a part.
Barrett, P. (2012, January 16). Building Resilience in the Outdoors. Address presented at the National Outdoor Education Conference, University of Canberra.
Carr-Gregg, M. (2012, May 21). Wellbeing for Learning and Life. Address presented at an Education Queensland Workshop, Crowne Plaza Pelican Waters.
Dale, A. (2000). BGGS Memorial Outdoor Education Centre: the tragedy at Christmas Creek: the development of The Memorial Outdoor Education Centre. Brisbane Girls Grammar School.
Deak, J. (2002). Girls will be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters. Hyperion: New York.
Nielsen, T. (2012, January 17). Steps towards greater wellbeing: How giving to others and our environment is a pedagogical rather than moral imperative. Address presented at the National Outdoor Education Conference, University of Canberra.
Wattchow, Brian & Brown, Mike (2011). A Pedagogy of Place: Outdoor education for a changing world. Monash University Publishing: Clayton, Victoria.