In the Middle School, students take part in a ground-breaking learning experience – the Immersive Program. The Immersive Program goes for six weeks (three weeks at each year level) that consist of a collection of camps, extended fieldtrips and learning experiences that immerse Middle School students in real-world learning. It is an eclectic and wonderful experience, rich with opportunities to learn in unique settings. Arguably, the highlight of the Immersive Program is Year 7 Enviro… but I am biased.
Year 7 Environment Program, or Enviro (as the cool kids call it), is a trailblazing program, which incorporates fun and valuable learning experiences. Enviro is divided into two components: two days at school and three in the field. Students choose to study an environment such as coasts, islands, forests, mountains, rivers, oceans or peninsulas. They are mixed up, depending on their choices. For many, this is the first time they will properly interact with students that are not in their home room, House or sporting team.
The two days at school are jam-packed with cross-curricular activities. Learning tasks incorporate elements of English, history, science, geography, maths, drama and of course art and design. Groups specifically focus on how our beautiful, diverse Victorian environment can inspire creativity. The school activities are varied to ensure that students are engaged and kept on their toes. A focus on sustainability and indigenous ties to our environment is at the forefront of all learning.
It is in the field that Enviro really gathers speed. Students are immersed in their respective environments, learning in the great outdoors, seeing and experiencing why our environment is so precious and one of the most eclectic in the world. To give you a real insight, I can call upon my own experiences on the islands fieldtrip. Over the last 10 years this fieldtrip has evolved and adapted in line with the changing nature of Phillip Island itself. As Phillip Island has gone from being a tourism mecca to a world class example of eco-tourism in action, so too has our incredible program changed. The experiential learning that continues to take place in this environment is innovative, with long-lasting memories created and a sense of responsibility for the environment ever present.
We no longer just visit the Little Penguins; we now make penguin boxes for them to live in. We don’t just learn about introduced species, including cats and European grasses; we are now educated about being responsible pet owners and we plant native grasses. We don’t just visit the koalas and marvel at how cute they are; we plant trees they can live in. We don’t just learn about our sea life, like seals and whales; we see them in their natural environment, and we make real pledges to help them. When we rockpool, we don’t trample the rocks and coral; we learn to look but not touch and we audit the marine ecosystem, providing valuable data to the Phillip Island Nature Parks staff. When we beachcomb, we don’t just dig holes or contribute to erosion; we pick up rubbish and learn about the dangers of nurdles and other microplastics. When we visit Forest Caves, we don’t just avoid getting wet by playing chasey with the waves; we experience a smoking ceremony and connect with the land. We hear from First Nations owners and learn about how their ancestors, the Bunurong people of Millowl utilised and respected the land.
In the time that we have been visiting the Penguin Parade, we have evolved as much as the Penguin Parade itself. The Parade now dedicates over 90% of funds earned to caring for the Phillip Island environment. I would argue that our approach is similar when visiting this region. As we visit the Summerland Peninsula it is with immense pride and satisfaction that I point out the hundreds of penguin boxes we have created and the acres of shrubs that are now trees, that we, the Carey students, have planted over the last 10 years. As we experience this region, and watch Black Tailed Wallabies jump effortlessly amongst the natural grasses, we know that we have played a significant role in establishing this sustainable habitat.
Year 7 Enviro is one of the more valuable experiences students participate in, and I would argue one of the most unique programs focused on sustainable education at any school.
Deputy Head of Middle School – Student Wellbeing