Reflections on Outweek

Last week, students from K – 12 as well as staff participated in Outweek Activities. As has been the norm at St. Margaret’s for over two decades, students in  Senior Years participate in such activities such as guided hikes, high ropes, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, caving and the ultimate one to three day camping excursions at Strathcona Park.   Over the years, additional activities such as S.A.L.T.S. (Sail And Life Training Society), Scuba Diving, Golf/Racquet Sports have rounded out these interactive learning experiences.   This year, the concept of Outweek was extended to students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 ensuring that this exposure to outdoor education was enjoyed across the entire school.  The younger grades had the opportunity to participate in zumba (latin-inspired dance fitness), orienteering, geocaching, trips to various locations in Victoria, community cleanup, stargazing, and the ultimate overnight camping trip (right here at SMS – campfire, marshmallows, and a row of tents set up nestled just outside the Junior Building!).  

The focus of the week is to provide a wide range of activities that help the girls learn about natural science, geography, environmental studies, outdoor living skills, group development and adventure learning.  In addition, a variety of games are played to help bond and build trust among the group followed by individual skill development all the while encouraging an appreciation for what the natural world has to offer. Some of the guiding principles surrounding this week include:

Challenge by Choice – providing students with the opportunity to choose appropriate risks in a safe environment realizing that success is measured by learning from mistakes and persevering until you “get it.”

Living on the Edge – pushing students past their comfort level to help them measure success through different experiences and realizing that trying new things is the best way to develop confidence and competence.

Generosity of Spirit – encouraging students to think of others, giving support and encouragement to teammates, and celebrating individual successes (recognizing that not everyone starts at the same place).

Happy Warrior – encouraging students to overcome their fears, being a positive contributor to a team, and embracing new opportunities for exploration.

Stewardship – helping students appreciate and take responsibility for their local environment.

All that the girls experienced last week truly embrace the goals of the Strategic Plan, providing our girls with the opportunity to extend student learning outside of the classroom and into the outdoors.  Our girls were provided with a unique and diverse educational experience that will hopefully develop self-confidence, make connections with nature and service, and finally, practice courage. Given the stories that the girls shared upon returning to SMS, I believe every one of them experienced the benefits of Outweek and came back stronger, more capable and empowered. And, of course, so did the staff who lead by example and fully participated and stretched their own skills!

From a personal perspective, my first experience at Strathcona allowed me to enjoy the company of both staff and students, and to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us without the intrusion of technology. I came to realize that this was a body/heart experience rather than a head/intellectual adventure creating “magical moments” that won’t be forgotten.  In the end, I learned four life lessons:

  1. Show up (be prepared to experience new things)
  2. Be present (notice small things, really small things like sundew on the bushes accenting beautifully woven spider webs!)
  3. Be genuine (admit what you don’t know or what you are afraid of as there will always be someone there to help you)
  4. Let go of the outcome (being the only winner is not inclusive and doesn’t lend itself to bonding or sharing common stories)

Written by Cathy Thornicroft, Head of School

Staff & Students can share their Outweek experience to win!
Deadline: Thursday October 3 
We’d love our students to show-&-tell us about their Outweek experience. Students can submit a photo and/or testimonial (story, reflection, or poem) for a chance to win! Prizes include Starbucks and MEC gift cards. Maximum 2 entries per person.  Be sure to include your name, your Grade, and your Outweek activity with your submission. Send submissions by email here before 4pm Thursday October 3.

*Winning stories & photos may be published to the school’s website (with first name only). Any photos will defer to image use consents as set by parents.

For more information on Outweek and other experiential learning programs offered at SMS, click here.

Our Outweek partners include:


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