Since 2007, The Outdoor Education Foundation, the charitable arm of The Outdoor Education Group, has facilitated 10-day expeditions, in partnership with the Alice Sloan Trust, for young women from rural communities who otherwise would not have the opportunity. With 15 years of data, Victoria University completed an evaluation of the program's effectiveness, examining the skills the program helped develop in students and if it has had an impact on their life beyond the expedition.
The Alice Sloan expedition sees the young women spend 10 days camping, bushwalking, rafting, canoeing, and cycling in the Alexandra-Eildon region of central Victoria. Through these adventure activities, participants explore their own backyard, developing a sense of belonging and place. They work together to overcome daily obstacles such as navigation, food preparation, camp set-up and inclement weather. These challenges allow the young participants to develop their ability to interact effectively, increase their confidence, explore social management, collaborate, and discover how to motivate and lead others.
Following the program, the young women are invited to participate in an additional 2-year leadership program, including public speaking events, community service, and extracurricular activities with metropolitan schools.
With 15 years of data to draw on, an independent evaluation by Victoria University has recently been completed of the program, examining what skills the young women took into their life beyond the program.
DEVELOPING YOUNG LEADERS
The young women interviewed spoke about how the expedition helped develop resilience, increased their self- esteem, and fostered an incredible community and friendships among the girls. "I think it gave me a lot of confidence at the time, and I think that confidence has helped me to be very persistent and preserve with a lot of challenges that have come up since then. It's also given a sense that I can land on my feet and work things out on the fly and that I would rather try something than not experience something. So, I think it's been really beneficial for creating that sort of mindset."
Importantly, the program developed them as leaders, something many of them had not previously experienced. One young woman spoke about how this impacted on her life back at school. "All the Alice Girls were stepping up into leadership positions, it was quite a natural progression. I think rather than all the opportunities, it was us taking opportunities that we probably wouldn't have taken otherwise. I know in my year level there were 6 girls from Alice that were on the trip and all 6 girls had some form of leadership position outside of the Alice Trust."
In the 15 years this program has been operating, formal student leadership roles at Alexandra Secondary College have included an Alice Girl. Participation in the program has also changed the way many view their career aspirations.
One participant said, "I always wanted to be a teacher, but I never saw myself being part of leadership roles. I have gone onto run the social representative council at my school and to know the students are getting empowered has become a huge passion of mine. It's definitely changed the course of where I'm going."
Leadership is a vital skill to be fostered and nurtured in our young women. As a community, it is our responsibility to create opportunities in which young women, in particular, are given the space to develop social influence, self and social management, confidence, goal setting, collaboration and curiosity – the capabilities underpinning leadership.
VICTORIA UNIVERSITY'S EVALUATION
As the charity arm of The Outdoor Education Group, The Outdoor Education Foundation provide life-changing outdoor education experience for young people who would not normally be able to access them. The Alice Sloan expeditions have been found to foster a sense of empowerment, leadership and community among the participants, leading to increased self-confidence, resilience, awareness, empathy, and a sense of unity and identity.
To learn more, read Victoria University's evaluation.
Lucy Menting is the Outdoor Education Foundation's Manager.