Last week I joined the Years 5 and 6 girls, and Mrs Goltz and Ms Hadock, on camp at The Caves. It was a wonderful camp and I thoroughly enjoyed all my time and interactions with the girls. The camp program was full and included lots of physical activity from rock climbing, to team challenges to swimming.
The standout activity for me, however, was the caving. Crawling through mud, wiggling through crevices and climbing up and over jagged rocks is not everyone’s cup of tea – especially when waiting around the corner is a pregnant huntsman or a startled microbat! However, we had an absolute blast and I was so impressed with the way the girls worked together and encouraged each other to keep going and to overcome their fears.
In his newsletter article last week, Acting Deputy Principal Ryan Cheers did a great job of outlining many of the benefits of camp programs. Participating in the caving activity highlighted for me another benefit. By incorporating activities that challenge and stretch our girls, like caving, Girls Grammar is facilitating opportunities for our girls to build confidence. Our mantra is for our girls to be clever, confident and connected so we need to provide them with ways to unleash these qualities. Camp programs do this.
Camps provide activities that allow girls to take smart risks i.e. they participate in things they might normally shy away from but that deep down they know will increase their fun, adventure and life confidence. By trying new things, and getting out of their comfort zones, they learn about themselves and just how strong and capable they are.
The girls on the Years 5/6 camp are only 11 or 12 years of age. For some of them, the idea of caving was a BIG challenge – some were nervous, some didn’t like mud, some were phobic about spiders. We heard (and challenged) the phrase “I’m scared” a number of times - even before we had entered the cave! But our guide broke the two hours into a series of smaller challenges – the first cave was a pretty straightforward passage where the girls could get through just by squatting down; the second cave required them to squeeze through a smaller entrance by sliding on their bellies; in the third cavern they had to work together to find the secret passageway out. By the fourth challenge, the ‘whale’s belly’, the girls were weaving through small gaps, sliding without a second thought through muddy puddles, encouraging and supporting each other to pull themselves over rocks and emerging with enormous grins of satisfaction. Every single one of them successfully undertook every challenge, including the last passage which required total darkness! They definitely left the caves more confident than when they walked in.
As we moved through the caves, we talked about what it means to have confidence. Being brave, isn’t about not being scared. It’s okay to acknowledge you have some worries and it’s okay to be afraid. Confidence is about accepting smart risks, despite your worries or anxieties. It’s about taking action.
Girls Grammar’s decision to offer activity-based camps for our Years 5 to 9 students is also very deliberate. Researchers have found that the tween and teen years are the best times for confidence creation (Kay and Shipman, 2018). Scientists know that while we all have some level of confidence, we can always make more. Every time we take action, every time we follow through on something despite our anxiety, we not only use our confidence, we create more.
An all girls’ environment, which is free from gender assumptions and stereotypes, fundamentally allows girls to thrive in terms of confidence, approach to challenges, risks and leadership. By holding camps, Girls Grammar offers girls opportunities to take smart risks, to engage in activities that may make them a little nervous but that also build their fun, their friendships and their sense of belonging. Importantly, they give the girls an important opportunity to use and create more confidence – and this is a crucial life skill for girls today.
Mrs Deanne Johnston