Not all classrooms have walls

The Helena Experience Tuesday, 06 Sept 2022

Learning can take place anywhere.

At Helena College, we believe that a quality education shows children how to become independent learners, able to drive their own growth and understanding, through inquiry, curiosity, and passion.  We are committed to the development of literacy, numeracy, and positive learning habits, to set the foundations for a life-long love of learning.  From outdoor learning spaces set under a canopy of trees, nature-based and purpose-built play facilities, the lineup of exciting electives and clubs, to our unique camps programme, we ensure that learning is purposeful and engaging.

Learning through play

We recognise the importance of both structured and unstructured play in learning, physical development, confidence and wellbeing, and offer a variety of play options at both the Darlington (Kindy to Year 5) and the Glen Forrest Campus (Years 6 to 12) campuses. At Helena College, play opportunities are facilitated for all year levels, both on the timetable and through learning practices. With extensive outdoor play areas, including dedicated play spaces for individual year groups, students have opportunities for active, unstructured play and more formal games at both campuses. Amongst the options are a mud kitchen, rock climbing, cubbie houses, and sandpits at Darlington, adventure play equipment, multipurpose court and grassed ovals at both campuses, along with a gymnasium at the Glen Forrest Campus. 

Camps Program

Some of the most challenging – and rewarding –  experiences Helena College offers is our Camps program. At Helena, every year level from Pre-Primary to Year 12 goes on a camp during the year. From a one-night sleepover on campus, to Point Perron and Albany or trekking the Cape to Cape, and scaling Karajini Gorges, we adventure to the most wondrous locations in Western Australia. Camps are an integral part of our holistic framework, forming a natural extension of school life.

Each camp builds on the skills from the one before, forming a sequential program focussed on personal growth and development. Based on the principles of ‘challenge by choice’, students set and stretch their own personal goals. Learning new skills, trying a range of different activities and interacting with their teachers and peers in setting vastly different from the classroom ensures the camps become the highlight of the school year for many students.

Surrounded by nature

The Glen Forrest Campus is set under a canopy of native trees, and significant work has gone into rehabilitating the bushland beneath with more native plants. The success of the rehabilitation can be seen in the flourishing population of quenda (bandicoots), which you will see hopping around the ground. Nesting boxes for black cockatoos, possums and bats can be seen in the trees, and regular visitors include the Australian ring-necked parrot and the occasional galah and rosella. Against this background, top notch facilities are available, including two Food Science & Technology rooms (including one equipped as a commercial-style kitchen), an engineering workshop, complete with wind tunnel, 3D printers and laser cutters, Media studios and a gymnasium. Find out more about our Senior School programs at Helena College.

Our Darlington Campus is perched on the top of a hill, with a fantastic view towards the City of Perth, and at the base of the hill, our boundary is marked by the beautiful Nyaania Creek. Visits to Nyaania Creek are not complete without gumboots and splashing through the water. Parts of our play areas are set within the slope, providing a natural rock wall and trees to climb, while creating a gentle ‘amphitheatre’ around the levelled playing fields.

The beautiful Liquid Amber (Liquidambar styraciflua) tree in the Early Learning Centre’s Big Backyard provides shade in the summer and allows the sun through in the winter.   A dedicated computer lab, cooking facilities, arts rooms (including small performance facilities,  music rooms, pottery studio and more), dedicated Learning Enrichment building and the Helena Hall ensure that learning can happen in lots of places!  Our 80+ year history in Darlington is acknowledged too, with the original 1940s one-room school building still in place and now used for meetings.  Find out more about our Junior School program.

The benefits of learning in a natural environment

We’re supremely lucky in the Perth Hills to be on nature’s doorstep, but does operating a College surrounded by trees, native fauna and wildlife really make a difference to learning outcomes for our students?

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have found contact with nature can be associated with several health benefits for children, such as improved cognitive function, increased creativity, improved interaction with adults, increased attention spans and reduced rates of stress and aggression.  In particular, a focus on educators and education settings showed the following key benefits:

  • Children who play regularly in natural settings are sick less often. Mud, sand, water, leaves, sticks, pinecones and gum nuts can help to stimulate children’s immune systems, as well as their imagination.
  • Children who play in natural settings are more resistant to stress; have lower incidence of behavioural disorders, anxiety and depression; and have a higher measure of self-worth.
  • Children who play in natural settings play in more diverse, imaginative and creative ways and show improved language and collaboration skills.
  • Natural, irregular and challenging spaces help kids learn to recognise, assess and negotiate risk and build confidence and competence.
  • Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other.
  • Bullying behaviour is greatly reduced where children have access to diverse nature-based play environments.

At Helena we believe outdoor, tactile experiences in nature can influence how our students feel and behave, and are largely responsible for some of the fondest memories they form while at the school. If you would like to find out more, we invite you to come on a tour of Helena College.