Outdoor Education in Year 9

Ironbark is a pioneering outdoor education program based at the College’s Ironbark Centre near Crows Nest, Queensland. For five weeks in Year 9, students are required to live and breathe farm life, free from the distractions of electronic media (mobiles, TVs and computers). The program focuses on the values of community, commitment and connection. Students are encouraged to discover strength born of teamwork and persistence and to awaken their individual capabilities.

Four main elements make up the Ironbark program. These are:

  • Outdoor pursuits
  • Farm skills
  • Environmental awareness
  • Community living

Students immerse themselves in all of these elements across the over 800ha property. Each activity is designed to challenge and develop—from handling livestock, to gardening; hiking to high ropes; blacksmithing, to meal preparation; and bushcraft to dormitory living.

For further information, download the Ironbark Information Guide.

Ironbark History

In the early 1970s, a group of St Peters staff began discussing the importance of outdoor education—they sought a new way to develop St Peters students. Momentum picked up when, in 1971, Wendall Dahl donated 78 acres of land near Crows Nest to help the College establish a dedicated outdoor education experience. In 1974, then Head of College, Dr Carson Dron recommended a pilot program be conducted. In 1976, the Ironbark experience became a permanent program, integral to a St Peters education.

Dr Dron and the founding Ironbark staff (including Maurie Fielke, Don Protheroe and Barry Jahnke), believed passionately in exposing students to the natural environment. They knew that, by creating opportunities where students would be challenged physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially in the context of the outdoors, they could set St Peters students apart from others in the education system. For generations, they’ve been proven right. Students consistently return from Ironbark stronger, wiser, more resilient and more self-confident. The program has become a rite of passage for St Peters students.

Over the years, the Ironbark program has seen minor changes (reducing in length and being offered to different year levels), but the overall aims and values have stayed the same. The benefits of the program have been recognised by schools and colleges all around Australia and, in 2018, the St Peters Student Counsellors formalised these benefits in their Ironbark Research Report. The Ironbark Research Report examines the positive and important impact that Ironbark has on students.

To read the full Ironbark Research Report, click here.

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