During the mid-year break each year, O’Loughlin Catholic College offers its Year Eleven students the opportunity to take part in a journey down the east coast of Australia. This venture, known as the Odyssey, has become a much-anticipated event in the lives of the O’Loughlin students. For most it is a rite of passage, a chance to develop social and organizational skills, an adventure to share with friends and a necessary part of their senior secondary education.
Originally the trip was known as Tensouth, and it began its existence as a camping trip to the Red Centre for what was then the school’s senior year level – Year Ten. Beginning in 1992 it developed over the following years until, by 1996, it was similar in format to the current trip. The name was changed in 2001, in line with the year group changing from Year Ten to Year Eleven. So there have been 8 Tensouth trips and 13 Odysseys to date (there was no trip in the year 2000 to accommodate the changeover).
Quote by a student from a previous trip.
“If one thing can be said about our trip it is that it helped us appreciate each other. The masks that many of us wear in the school environment were lowered and many hidden talents were discovered by our peers, students and teachers alike. At the same time, the trip gave us an opportunity to see the great diversities of our country, not only climatic, but cultural and social also. We passed through two Territories and three States in a matter of 17 days. We saw snowy mountain peaks, sweeping desert plains, crowded peak hour streets and busy harbour docks. We travelled on planes, buses, trains, trams, and of course ,we walked. We were spectators at our national AFL and NRL matches. When the trip was over and the excitement and hysteria subsided, and when I sat down to write this reflection, it dawned on me that while I was away from school I was still learning. But this was learning on a much grander scale. I was learning to live.”
Over the years many of the teachers who have been on the Odyssey, and many of the parents, have made comments along the lines of us going away with a group of adolescents and returning with a group of young adults. On this trip they learn so much about themselves, about each other and about life outside the confines of school and family. Many past students have looked back on the trip as a real turning point in their lives, and at the very least a treasure trove of wonderful memories.
Learning should include the notion of group problem solving - group cooperation. In real learning, cooperation emerges as a group works towards a common goal that they cannot achieve on their own. It emerges as a group begins to recognise, value and make use of the differing talents among individual members of the group. It occurs when the group accepts and supports the efforts of individuals within it.
Hands on experience
It is a first-hand/ hands-on experience. Often we deal with theoretical concepts in the classroom. We talk about snow and mountains, about our Government, about how big the country is, we talk about the Australian Identity and so on. When you move from the ‘talking/looking in books’ stage to first hand experiences, students are likely to take a greater intellectual or emotional stake in the subject.
It is a practical, tangible and positive exercise in demonstrating what a community can achieve; that problems arise as obstacles to our aspirations (dreams and hopes) but that problems have solutions that are inextricably interwoven- for their implementation and success- with the whole concept of “community”. Australia- and its people- is a land of great diversity e.g. from the torrid zone to the temperate zone, from the alpine zone to the arid zone. A beginning of understanding of the Australian Identity.
Skills and Participation
Learning of organisational skills and undertaking various responsibilities. All participants will contribute in one way or another, before during and after the trip in every facet of the Tour; some random examples- all areas of fund-raising, arranging visits with introductory letters, votes and letters of thanks, duty groups throughout the trip, responsibility for various day-to-day programs.
Educating the Whole Child
A trip such as this differs from School where we so often ‘compartmentalize’ learning. We have one hour of Science, then R.E., then English..... the physical, intellectual and aesthetic are in ‘boxes’ and unless a crisis is reached, we often ignore the social, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Students need the opportunity to bring together and integrate the physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual aspects of their personality.
The College Vision Statement
The Odyssey is a project that aims to integrate all aspects of the College Vision Statement:
‘Make us one in Christ: with hope – to nurture our potential, with faith – to serve our community, with love – to honour all people.’
Ask a student what they remember of school having left five years ago. It is a safe bet they’ll remember what they did - their friendships, the experiences that engaged their eyes, ears and bodies along with their minds, the activities that allowed them to live out the values of the school.