The Biggies Canberra Camp
Gosh, what a good time it is to be a Biggie! Our most recent highlight has of course been our inaugural five-day trip to Canberra, which began when Simon, Steve and I met our excited, but still sleepy students at Hobart airport at 5.30 last Monday morning. After a pleasant flight and check-in at our comfortable accommodation, we climbed Mt. Ainslie to orient ourselves with a magnificent outlook over Canberra and its surrounds, and Simon drove us around the city, taking in the sights from a different perspective.
On day two, we visited the Royal Australian Mint where we learned about the history of our currency and marvelled at the precision and robotics involved in the production of our coinage. This was followed by a trip to the National Museum of Australia where a ‘potted history of Australia’, presented through an amazing audio-visual display in a circular rotating theatre began our self-guided exploration of this fascinating museum.
We spent many enthralled hours the following day at the Australian War Memorial; breaking up our whole day visit there with lunch at the Pod Playground and the National Arboretum. We listened to the poignant stories of individual men and women who served our country in the armed forces. We experienced simulated battle sequences through audio-visual displays and the reflective stillness that followed the moving ‘Last Post’ ceremony. After dinner we enjoyed a night-lights tour and a viewing of the city from high up in the Telstra Tower.
On Thursday, Tamsin, our knowledgeable guide at the National Portrait Gallery shared a variety of portraits with us; exploring the reasons behind their inclusion in the collection, the artist’s techniques and the stories of the sitters. We were even able to draw our own self-portraits in situ! After lunch, we took a self-guided tour of the National Gallery Australia to see Sidney Nolan’s iconic ‘Ned Kelly Series’ as well as the Indigenous, European and American collections. I was impressed by the children’s stamina and enthusiasm in exploring these galleries…it nearly matched my own! The latter part of the day was spent at the New Parliament House, where we took part in a guided tour and, together with students from another small school from the North-West of Tasmania, a parliamentary role-play. Cottage School was well represented in the roles of Prime minister, Clerk, Minister for Communications, and assorted other ministers and backbenchers. We passed a Bill for free Wi-Fi on public transport!! After our long day of focussing, we celebrated Lachie’s birthday with ‘frozen custard’ and a play at John Knight Memorial Park on our way back to camp.
The long anticipated visit to Questacon, the Science and Technology Museum, served as the grand finale to our trip, and it exceeded all expectations! Most of the children conquered their fears and experienced the six-metre ‘free-fall’ slide, which was definitely a highlight!
We kept our up traditions of camp plays and camp awards and on our final night, we played a great team quiz game; the questions relating to all the places we had visited. The children were given the opportunity each day to make entries into their ‘Canberra journals’ that also held mementos such as plane tickets, brochures, memorial poppies, etc.
The Biggies were great ambassadors for our school through their curious questioning, their patient listening, their thoughtful gestures and their polite interactions both at our accommodation site and the venues we visited. When, on Friday evening at Sydney’s departure lounge we communicated the news that our 9pm flight had been delayed by an hour, these very tired kids simply found a spot on the floor to settle into, pass around the coloured pencils, and illustrate a card for a fellow Biggie, celebrating each other’s input to the camp in the form of a camp award. Just another very lovely ‘Cottage School’ moment!