In remote schoolrooms from Mount Magnet through to the Nullarbor, the news that dominated Morning Muster (the daily morning sat web catch-up with teachers and Kalgoorlie School of the Air students) towards the end of Term 3 was the highly anticipated Drama Camp in Week 10.
The excitement was palpable weeks before setting off to Kalgoorlie for the camp as all the students were provided with a program from the teachers with performance roles assigned, lines to practice and costumes to create for the performance at the end of camp week.
This year’s drama performances allocated were space-themed and included a kindergarten and pre-primary item called There Was an Old Astronaut Who Swallowed the Moon, while the Year 1 and 2 students were assigned, We’re Going on a Moonwalk, and the Year 3 to 6 students were given a week to prepare for their performance, Moonwalker, a play about astronauts meeting aliens on the moon.
So, with three excited children and my four-month-old baby, we set off with bags, bedding and completed schoolwork and hit the road to make the 650km kilometre journey to Kalgoorlie.
For the week of camp, we were extremely fortunate as a school community to be able to utilise the camp school facilities at Fairbridge College in Kalgoorlie, a city famous for its gold rush history. The camp school accommodates up to 80 people with dormitory style rooms that have between 2 and 22 beds, as well as adjoining rooms for teachers to conduct activities and a playground for children to use.
As a former School of the Air student myself, I was reminded during Drama Camp of just how important the camp school experience is for remote students and their families. My children benefited enormously from the social interaction with their peers, sharing dorms and mealtimes and activities right up until bedtime. As their mother and home tutor, I also benefited immensely from the social interaction with other Mums in the same boat, as well as spending time with our wonderful Kalgoorlie School of the Air teachers.
Our homes are hundreds of kilometres apart, but our challenges as Mums/Home Tutors are much the same – huge distances, husbands who often work away, community and pastoral business commitments in addition to teaching our children and all the other demands that go hand in hand with station life.
For me the camp experience is therapeutic, just as it was for my mother who always made our attendance at camp possible, no matter what obstacles presented themselves to prevent it. Now I know exactly why. She knew exactly how important it was for her as a parent but also for the social development of her children - the building of strong friendships with classmates in addition to engendering a sense of belonging to a school community despite the huge distances that separated us from our peers.
One of the activities that was held at the camp school this year particularly left a lasting impression on me. The children had all organised costumes and props for the “Read, Grow and Inspire” themed Book Week Parade before we left our respective stations. It was an absolute delight to see the children get dressed up together, giggle and compare handmade costumes and clap for each other as all the year levels paraded for their classmates, parents and teachers before the camp got underway. It dawned on me just how impossible this experience would have been to try and replicate for my children remotely, thousands of kilometres apart from their classmates, without the same sense of fun, excitement, and camaraderie.
The Book Week parade was also a fantastic lead into the activities of Drama Camp week filled with costumes, props, rehearsals and all the unbridled excitement of remote children coming together. This year Kalgoorlie School of the Air partnered with the Goldfields Repertory Club for the first time so that the children could experience using a real theatre for their performance and acting on a stage in a theatre which was both invaluable and unforgettable for our remote children.
The Drama Camp was enjoyed immensely by the entire Kalgoorlie School of the Air community and the drama performances at the conclusion of the camp were an absolute credit to the students and the staff who put in hours of practice to create some unforgettable memories for our school community.
Without the opportunity to utilise camp school facilities, the camp experience is arguably more disjointed and there aren’t the opportunities for the children, parents, and teachers to socialise, participate and be truly as one school community.
As I embark on the years and the miles ahead making the camp school experience happen for my children, I was reminded on our seven-hour journey home from Kalgoorlie as I listened to the lively camp school stories imparted by my children, that they like me, will carry their treasured camp school memories with them for life.
By Lara Jensen