Adventure-packed itinerary at Scouts NSW’s Cataract Activity Centre.
The benefits of exercise in an educational context have been long-established. A US-based study (1) on all-girls adventure programs provides evidence that single-sex adventure programs can reduce competition and self-consciousness, while increasing self-exploration and growth. The study, All-Girls Adventure Programmes: What Are the Benefits? also highlights that girls-only adventure programs can foster higher participation, boost opportunities to explore new skills and take risks, and help girls develop positive relationships with their peers.
Girls learn from an early age what activities are ‘acceptable’ for them, and by participating in risky or more adventurous activities, they destabilise that unwritten status quo. The new girls-only, adventure-packed itinerary at Scouts NSW’s Cataract Activity Centre is helping break these barriers by showing girls and young women in Years 4–12 what they are capable of.
As we know, girls have everything they need to be the leaders of tomorrow (and today), but the surrounding culture can send mixed messages. By introducing (or reintroducing) girls and young women to nature and helping them take part in challenging outdoor activities, they are given the forum to push themselves and break any self-imposed, gendered ideas they have been told, subconsciously or otherwise.
In addition to being a tool of empowerment, outdoor recreation, or ‘green exercise’, has proven to have positive impacts on self-esteem, mood and attentional capacity. Also, as is well known but less remedied, being physically active is linked to mental, physical and social health benefits, with research showing that active kids become active adults (2). It’s vital to set up good habits early and shatter any preconceived notions of what girls can and should participate in.
Breaking Barriers and Building Confidence
The Cataract Activity Centre, operated by Scouts NSW but open to all, is on 160 hectares of bushland on the edge of Sydney, and its adventure-based activities include abseiling, caving, orienteering, bush craft, bush walks and archery. The groups are accompanied by women instructors who provide expert advice, guidance, encouragement and inspiration.
Less Screen Time and more Green Time!
The itinerary is the ideal antidote to the era of lockdowns and excess screen time (not to mention the detrimental impact that social media can have on teenage girls). By disconnecting young women and girls from their devices and exposing them to challenging and rewarding experiences in an outdoor environment, they not only reap the physical and mental benefits, but the focus on team building and developing social skills helps them forge strong camaraderie with other girls, and women who can act as strong role models.
The supportive environment of the program at Cataract Activity Centre is especially important. As the girls and young women go through the same challenges and are unified by a common experience, the opportunity opens for them to inspire and encourage each other. Aside from the relationships that are formed, it also teaches crucial social and communication skills (both verbal and non-verbal) and can increase confidence.
This is No Walk in the Park
The girls-only itinerary is ideal for daytrips, school camps and excursions, but it’s no walk in the park. There’s a range of adventurous and challenging activities that might push some out of their comfort zone. It is well documented though, that experiencing adversity can build confidence and instil an ability to overcome challenges and succeed. This isn’t just an instant boost, but a life-long lesson.
Another critical life-long lesson is learning how to support each other. While adversity can build confidence, it’s the wider community that can also help us push through. The fact is, we know that the next generation of women is capable and resourceful, but they need to know it, too. And once they harness their potential, they will be able to support other girls and young women effectively. Through building the confidence and self-worth of girls and young women via outdoor physical activities and experiences it is hoped that these girls can then support other girls and young women. That they go into the world as strong, self-possessed community members who challenge the status quo, and know their worth and the worth of others.
We need to give the next generation of girls and young women the tools to dismantle damaging norms and behaviours and forge on to become the strong women and leaders we know they are capable of.
For more information on Cataract Activity Centre’s excursions and overnight camps, visit https://cataract.nsw.scouts.com.au/girls-choose-your-adventure/
*News piece originally featured on Education Today. View the original article here.