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From the Principal's Office

Daily Dispatch article: 4 June 2014

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PARENTS hovering around their kids is out and teaching them self-reliance is in, says Lilyfontein School principal Dr Ian Galbraith.

Galbraith gets to put his thesis on adventure-based education into practice every day at the Brakfontein-based school, where children from Grades 1 to 12 scale 9m walls, jump into ice-cold dams and abseil off cliffs, all in the name of building character.


In his PhD thesis for Rhodes University titled Developing Self-Regulated Learning through the Use of Meta-Cognitive Strategies in Adventure-based Activities, Galbraith, 62, found that by overcoming fears and stepping out of comfort zones children learnt to solve their own problems and become more effective – and more employable – adults.

"If they live a cocooned and over-protected life, when they hit real life and go to university, their dam walls break down because they have never had to be independent and tough. Tenacity and commitment is what the world requires," said Galbraith – who practises what he preaches and abseils off a 95m cliff along with his Grade 10 class in the Amathole mountains every year.

Galbraith, who presented his thesis to the school at its Founders' Day celebrations last Friday ahead of his retirement at the end of the year, said it was important that children push themselves into situations they may not initially feel comfortable with as it improved their self-esteem. "So for example if they are faced with a risk situation they can think it through by using the pre-frontal cortex of the brain as opposed to reacting emotionally.

"The idea of my thesis is to get children to self-regulate, to think things through and solve problems."

Lilyfontein offers traditional sports like rugby, tennis and hockey, but adventure-based activities are very much part of the Life Orientation aspect of the curriculum and a ropes course, abseiling tower and climbing wall are a permanent part of the infrastructure.

The grittiest children gather at the school dam at 6.30am every Tuesday and plunge into its icy waters, while Grade 9s do an 88km mountain hike during which they must feed themselves.

Referring to parents who hover around their children incessantly as "helicopter" parents, Galbraith said this form of parenting did children an injustice.

"Helicopter parents won't let their kids trip and fall. "But they should let them fall because they must get up, dust themselves off and go on."

Lilyfontein adventure department head Margaret Mitchell said she had seen children who were terrified of some of the physical challenges overcome their fears and become more self-confident individuals.

"I had an obese child who went to the climbing wall and said 'I'm too big, I can't do it'. But we got her to the top and from that moment there was nothing she believed she could not do."

Mitchell said the achievement had knock-on effects and the pupil started eating healthily and lost weight. — This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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