Taking the leap of leadership at Boyle River

July 23, 2018

Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre is in the business of creating moments where learning can happen in the outdoors.

For 17-year-old Ella Ward, who took part in the Centre’s Potential Leaders programme this year, her trip to Boyle River involved a lot of learning, some smaller challenges and some big ones, and the making of many friends.

As a head student at Motueka High School, Ella is no stranger to leadership, but she found new ways to push herself during the Potential Leaders programme, which is designed for young people with leadership responsibilities, such as head students, sport captains and prefects.

Ella says the challenges at the camp built on each other from one day to the next. They were learning outdoor activities that were new to her, like rock climbing and abseiling, and these activities also demanded other skills, including empathy, communication and trust.

This is what Boyle River is all about, says development manager Nick Chapman.

From its beginnings as a tin hut in the mountains in the 1970s, to its role now as a major outdoor education centre, Chapman says the key is making use of the outdoors as a setting where people can grow and develop.

“The best part of my job is having the ability to create moments where learning can happen. That progression and development of young people, and adults – everybody gains something from this sort of environment and experience and I love being able to help to facilitate that,” he says.

A core feature of Boyle’s programme is adventure-based learning, which centres on the personal and social development of the individual and the group, Chapman says.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Skills Active, Boyle River is able to deliver a number of unit standards linked to adventure-based learning.

“The units that we deliver are quite often not in the scope of schools,” says Chapman. “So the MOU has given us a system of reporting credits and acknowledging the learning the students are doing, which creates an opportunity for the students, and the schools themselves, that they might not otherwise have.”

He points out that the unit standards earned at Boyle do more than just add to students’ academic records – they are building blocks for post-school qualifications and careers in the outdoors.

Chapman says the Centre also gets regular feedback from students who say they left camp with an understanding of how to take those personal and social skills that they’ve been working on, and transfer them to other areas of their life.

Having arrived at the Centre “pretty shy”, by the end Ella had made new friends, and taken some big leaps – both figuratively and literally.

She says the Potential Leaders programme helped her to practise “not judging the challenge until you try”, as well as breaking up big, daunting tasks into smaller chunks, or as she puts it: “taking one bite of the elephant a time”.

“The sense of achievement I got when I completed both the abseil and the rock climbing were amazing, and I’m so grateful for that.”



Photo credit: Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre