Gen Schools: Wilderness Journey

In November 2021, several Masiyembo members designed and facilitated a deep nature immersion for high school students from the Generation School (Imhoff, Kommetjie).

The following piece was written for the school's newsletter by Alison McCallum:

In November [2021], our AS1 students set off on the School’s inaugural ‘wilderness journey’. This event was inspired by similar initiatives being undertaken by an increasing number of schools who recognise the role that wilderness experiences can play in the personal and social journey of students in their formative high school years.

Whilst our initial dreams saw our students head into the Cederberg wilderness for a 7-day hike, COVID required us to be flexible and take smaller steps towards a bigger vision. And so it was, that soon after sunrise on the 13th October 2021, our AS1 students met at the gates of Cape Point Nature Reserve, our very own local wilderness to begin their three-day adventure … 

The journey was expertly designed and guided by Masiyembo, an organisation that specialises in facilitating meaningful journeys in wild places. Over the course of the three days, the students enjoyed a rich tapestry of experiences, from the relief and satisfaction of summiting some surprisingly tough peaks, to walking alone in silence, and sitting ‘in council’ and listening to each other, to just immersing themselves in the beauty of their surroundings. And then there was the unexpected fun of “cool exercises” (to quote one student!), to the unexpected sighting of a whale, learning basic survival skills (they can now start a fire without matches!), to the hilarity and bonding over evening braais and potjies. 

The success of our first “wilderness journey” is best reflected in the quotes from some of the students. Their comments show an appreciation of the value of being in Nature “away from it all”, and the opportunity it provided to get to know one another and “bond as a class”. In their own words:

“I like how the camp brought us together and forced us to overcome obstacles we thought we couldn’t.”

“I really liked getting away from society and being in Nature.”

“I enjoyed the time that we got to self-reflect and seeing people outside of School who I wouldn’t normally interact with.”

“I know how to talk to plants now.”

“To be honest, I just loved bonding with my class.”

“I liked not having phones around ….”

“I really liked connecting with my class, having time away from everything.”

“It was really nice to be able to reflect and become more aware.”

“It has made me appreciate spending time with people without the distractions of the electronic and fast paced world. I also was able to experience nature with its honesty and bravery”.

 As we look towards 2022, we hope to build on the tracks left by these students. Inspired by their enthusiasm, our dream is to embed this wilderness journey into the traditions of our School, so that in years to come, students entering high school will already be excited about the wilderness journey that awaits them – perhaps in years to come, a 21-day journey in the Cederberg or another wilderness area!  

 With deep thanks to Jess, for bringing Masiyembo on board; to the ‘cool guides’ – Lauren and Roy; to Denise, for her tireless commitment to our students; to Scone who entered the fray and hiked (happily) alongside the students; to Malcolm and Caronne for saying yes to this wild idea; to the AS1 students for participating with such gusto; and lastly, to the parents that proposed the idea and refused to give up!

~ Alison McCallum

Images: Supplied