School excursions – are they really worth it? - Education Matters Magazine
Beyond the Classroom

School excursions – are they really worth it?


These days students are travelling far and wide around the globe for their school excursions – it’s become the norm. But what if your students stayed a little closer to home and learnt more about Australia? What if they could learn about Aboriginal culture “hands on”; sustainability “hands on”; Australian history “hands on” – would you give them that opportunity? 

Tourism NT and over 30 tour operators in the Northern Territory are showcasing ‘NT Learning Adventures’ to Australian educators and students. In addition to being your hosts and guides, these NT operators are passionate about their products, they love to share their knowledge, and their experiences are all aligned to real educational outcomes. We’d like to introduce you to a few of our favourite people and places in the NT.

Norman Cramp – Darwin Military Museum

On the 19th February 1942 war came to Australian soil for the first time in the shape of two devastating air raids by Japanese Naval and Army air forces. The raids on the 19th February, in which some 253 people lost their lives, were the first of 64 such raids carried out by the Japanese during the period February 1942 to November 1943.

The attacks on Darwin by 188 enemy aircraft, the same battle group that had attacked the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, were the first, largest and most destructive enemy attacks on Australia before or since.  While the raids had a demoralising effect on many of the population in the township, the Australian spirit shone through with the military personnel doing their best to repel the attackers and in doing so defending their country and their fellow citizens. An Australian Army personnel who featured prominently on that fateful day was Gunner John (Jack) Mulholland.

Jack Mulholland was interviewed by DMM staff a year or two before his death in 2013, where he speaks of under-trained military personnel, of being issued with obsolete ammunition for the guns and ammunition that was rated ‘not to be used in tropical climates’. Jack’s experience was that there was a degree of panic within the ranks and the civilian population which he attributed to the confusion following the surprise attacks, the misunderstandings of orders issued to some of the military personnel (i.e.; to leave the town and form up in the bush down the track) and the lack of visible law and order. He also mentioned that he thought his gun crew, or at least one of the guns in his battery, had brought down a Japanese bomber that had been seen to crash into Darwin Harbour. Jack, in his own laconic manner said; “It was more a case of he flew into our fire rather than us hitting him!” Jack remembered the Darwin Hotel being left totally abandoned after the first raid with cups of tea and smoking cigarettes left in the dining room and bar areas and rooms left open and unlocked as the guests (occupants) had made a hasty departure. He said he and his mates removed certain items from the hotel to clean the barrels of the guns and to refresh themselves. One can only assume (hope) it was water rather than alcohol! Jack Mulholland survived the war and finished his military career as a Captain in the Australian Army. He was a regular visitor to Darwin over the years to commemorate the bombing of Darwin and he and his family donated various items of memorabilia to the Military Museum and the Darwin High School.

The attacks on Darwin are an important part of Australia’s history as they remain the largest, most concentrated, prolonged and devastating attacks on Australian soil to this day.

There are many stories to be told about that day and the days that followed and in that regard, the Defence of Darwin Experience within the Darwin Military Museum has gone a long way in telling the story via its multi-media, high-tech, immersive and interactive digitised display of Darwin leading up to, during and after the first raids. It is a must see experience for anyone interested in Australia’s wartime history.

Earth Sanctuary – Outback to the Future – A student’s perspective – Melbourne student, age 15, 2014

What’s life like in the Australian outback? I had heard stories about the Northern Territory from my parents and teachers but I never really knew what to expect on my school camp to Alice Springs. I did know it was a long, long way away from home and the coast, and that I may even lose phone reception. But what would eventually take place in the company of my classmates and teachers would prove to be life changing.

While in Alice Springs we spent our first afternoon and evening at the Earth Sanctuary exploring the region’s unique ecology and indigenous culture. Our guides weaved conversations about land and culture, perception, survival and ceremony as we walked through native bush and watched the sunset over the ancient MacDonnell Ranges. While at the Earth Sanctuary, life back home felt like another planet away, we explored the interconnected worlds of various lizards, birds and marsupials and how the world’s oldest living culture thrived amidst the extreme weather and conditions. Did you know it snowed at Uluru/Ayers Rock in July 1997? Did you also know that it reached 45 degrees plus in the middle of summer and it can last for months? Now that’s extreme!

Later we explored sustainability in the past and the present through the responsible use of energy, water, shelter, food, utilities and how our wellbeing is deeply connected to our world-view, the way we think and the reasons why we think the way we do? Our class viewed solar and wind farms, geodesic domes and we even generated kinetic power from a bicycle to power lights.

The outback became my new home and classroom, finding bush foods and traditional medicine, making damper, navigating using the Southern Cross, finding the star Arcturus that some Aboriginals used to find foods. But nothing would ever prepare me for what would come next – sleeping under the Milky Way galaxy in my swag and losing count of the thousands of stars. As I lay there in my swag, my thoughts turned into dreams as all the big questions circled around me about the Earth, the galaxy and what great adventures lay ahead for my class tomorrow.

The outback is the best classroom in the world! It’s so different from life anywhere; it made me think differently and appreciate that amongst our many differences we all have similar needs and wants. It’s challenging, but rewarding. My NT journey was the best ever!


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