The Alpine School, a centre for training young leaders, selects teams of 4-6 Year 9s from 8 schools in both metropolitan and country areas. The School is on the outskirts of the picturesque Dinner Plain Village – not far from the Mt Hotham Ski Resort in northeastern Victoria.
The young teams are chosen on the basis of their ‘community learning project’ and demonstrated leadership potential. The projects link the school community with an element of the outside community and the ideas usually come from the students. Up to 45 students have attended each term, since the Centre’s opening in 2000.
The students, from diverse backgrounds, learn tolerance and teamwork and help each other with the ongoing community projects – they have ‘shadow teams’ and a liaison teacher back at school all working on the project. Collaboration between schools and the communities beyond are encouraged and community support / sponsorship towards the $1100 per team member for the nine week term is sought.
The Victorian Department of Education, Employment & Training has two more schools ‘in the pipeline’ for Victoria. The Alpine School has a staff of 12 or more, highly trained in leadership, curriculum and outdoor education and maintains a very informative website www.alpineschool.vic.edu.au complete with webcams! Teacher Chris Davies says he really values letters from former students, written when real world circumstances have led them to recognise the value of the course.
Three of the community learning projects for Term I, 2005:
(i) Jenna and Kate, part of the team from Lara Secondary College, near Geelong, are working on a project for the elderly at St Laurence Park in their community. They have 20 in their shadow team back in Lara as part of their Year 9 Communications subject. The project won a grant from the City of Greater Geelong and consists of researching, designing and creating:
-a memorial walk with plaques significant to the elderly.
(ii) Shannon is a Terang College team member working on a project that draws in a cluster of 6 primary schools in the area to develop a tourism sign with changeable letters to list upcoming events – Terang is a small town near Warrnambool on Victoria’s southwest coast. The team has funding from the Corangamite Shire, has obtained a permit from VicRoads to erect the sign and has approached Rotary for assistance. Student artists will be called on to create the sign.
(iii) Apollo Bay is also on Victoria’s far southwest coast. Angus and Josh are working on the Apollo Bay P-12 College project called ‘The Bridge over the Ridge’ – they are establishing a ‘social bridge’ with students from a Special School in their town. They have already held a beach day which didn’t go exactly as planned – but was a huge success – and are planning sport and drama activities.
The students say they recognise the value of the leadership training and the idea that they should convey what they have learnt to their peers and home communities. They love being at the Alpine School but do miss home, especially when with an event such as the recent unseasonal snowfall, when they couldn’t share it with the their families!