Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Parent Expectations of a 27 Day Extended Stay Outdoor Education School Program (ESOESP)

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Parent Expectations of a 27 Day Extended Stay Outdoor Education School Program (ESOESP)

Article excerpt

Introduction

Prince Alfred College (PAC) is an all-boys school (Kindergarten to Year 12) situated in Adelaide, South Australia. Originally established by the Methodist Church in 1869, it is now affiliated with the Uniting Church of Australia. As of November 2010, it has over 1000 boys aged between 4 and 18. Boarding is available to students and more than 100 boys from country areas and overseas live in the Boarding house.

In 2001, senior administrators and teachers at PAC identified a need to reconsider ways in which the school provides for Year 9 boys. As a result, a comprehensive research study (Hobbs, 2006) was undertaken to address the problem of the disengagement of adolescent boys from mainstream school based learning. The consideration of an Extended Stay Outdoor Education School Program (ESOESP) as a possible solution was proposed and given support from the broader school community. In March 2006, College Council endorsed the first stage of the ESOESP with a trial program to commence in Term One of 2007.

Today, as part of a boy's education at PAC, each Year 9 student undertakes a 27 day ESOESP known as 'Wambana'. The purpose of Wambana is to foster growth by helping adolescent boys better manage the transition to adulthood through immersion in a community with an academic, and spiritual focus, and utilizing outdoor adventures as a learning tool. This program, based at Point Turton on the Southern Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, represents a journey quest, involves confronting challenges and provides an opportunity for service to others.

The Wambana program is in its fifth year and it was timely to identify the personal qualities parents want developed in their son. It is intended that the findings from this study will help guide the way in which ESOESP educators teach, support and mentor students. Two key questions guided this research:

1. What personal qualities do parents want their son to improve by participating in the 27 day ESOESP?

2. How can an ESOESP assist in the development of adolescent boys?

Method

This study utilised a survey with quantitative and qualitative questions. The survey was created, launched and analysed in September 2010 using Zoomerang software, an online survey software program.

Two open ended questions shaped this study. Question one asked parents to list and describe three qualities that their son needs to improve. A list of personal qualities was constructed by the researcher for parents to examine and select. This list was inspired by a discussion with senior educators at Prince Alfred College and what they believe to be the human qualities we value most. Question two was specific to the 27 day Wambana program and asked parents "How can an ESOESP assist in the development of adolescent boys? These questions allowed parents to give their own opinion about survey items. In this instance, the use of open ended questions allowed the researcher to gather rich descriptive data (Thorndike, 1996).

The survey was emailed out to 108 parents of students in Year 8 at Prince Alfred College and to parents who have enrolled their son to begin Year 9 at Prince Alfred College in 2011. Of the 108 surveys sent, 104 were accessed and 73 completed. This constitutes a 70% response rate, a rate considered extremely high for online surveys (Leong & Austin, 2006). This survey was administered four months prior to the participants embarking on their first program at Wambana. Quantitative data was screened for errors and descriptive statistics were reported. Responses to open ended questions were grouped into like themes. These were contrasted with competing ideas and areas of silence were also acknowledged.

The analysis of data was conducted in a practical process. First, the researcher read the content a number of times and made initial notes and highlights. These notes and highlights were then developed into labels and categories. …

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