Date with a Pharoah

When teacher Keith Jackson realised the majority of students at his south-western Sydney school had only ever travelled as far as Sydney city, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Mr Jackson contacted Qantas and asked them to help send a group of teachers and students to Melbourne.

The challenge however was the students from Lomandra School all have severe behavioural problems.

Principal Mark Smith said the school aimed to prepare their students for the real world.

"We call it the Outside Classroom - helping our students into the community where they meet and engage with other people," Mr Smith said.

"These are kids whose behaviour and mental health issues have got in the way of their learning.

"However, it is my belief that by shifting their imagination just a little we can shift their behaviour quite a lot."

Mr Jackson's interstate excursion vision played well into that philosophy and with Qantas on board six students along with Mr Smith, Mr Jackson and Gina Roberts flew to Melbourne.

"To say the kids were very excited is a colossal understatement," Mr Smith said.

"Other passengers realised they were first-time flyers and were smiling and encouraging - and very tolerant of their language."

On the first day they checked in to the youth hostel, visited Victoria Markets, saw the Melbourne Cricket Ground and went to St Kilda beach where they saw fairy penguins and starfish.

The next day the group visited the museum and the Tutankhamun exhibition.

"Qantas had organised free entry and also head sets, so the students could wander around at their own pace.

"Heading back that afternoon in the plane an archaeologist was sitting behind me and the kids had great fun telling her everything they had seen," Mr Smith said.

According to Mr Jackson the visit to Melbourne benefitted everyone.

"The excursion had a bigger positive impact on the students than I thought it would," Mr Jackson said.

"The Qantas staff has taken a great interest in our students and want to keep a close relationship with the school."

Mr Smith said the excursion was all about promoting positive risk taking.

"The world is not going to change and the kids need to learn how to survive in it," Mr Smith said.

"They need to learn resilience."

Not content with that success Mr Jackson is now planning a five-day bushwalk in the Blue Mountains.

"Beyond that, the school is working on the possibility of walking the Kokoda Trail. This would be an enormous challenge," Mr Smith said.

Photo: Courtesy of Lomandra School 


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