Kuitpo Forest Walk: Reflections

The start of the Onkeeta Trail

After an abrupt change to the scheduling for our topic program in HLPE3532 due to covid-19 restrictions, we were encouraged to undertake and reflect on a day walk in our own time and means throughout the lockdown occurring in South Australia. Despite being in lockdown, I found little time available between bouts of inclement weather and an increased workload providing IT support to employees dealing with ‘working from home’ situations. It was the Saturday after lockdown restrictions were lifted and my partner (Jo)

and I took the opportunity to spend an afternoon with our friends Ben, and Maddie, and our dog, Mickey, walking the Onkeeta Trail in Kuitpo Forest, SA.

Jo and I were feeling claustrophobic from working at our computers all week and excited about the weather being a perfect 25 degrees with minimal wind, and mostly blue skies for what ended up being a 10.78 kilometre walk along the forest’s vehicle tracks. Along the way, we shared plenty of laughs and insightful discussions about our experiences throughout the lockdown, the effects of our own situations, and the

Walking through Kuitpo Forest

impact/value of being able to spend an afternoon in the outdoors while being physically active. For me, the effects were quite tremendous, both physically and mentally. I had been looking forward to the day walk at Kuitpo originally planned with my university classmates, and the opportunities that may have led to in our growth through discussions and bonding from the experienced learning (Beames & Atencio, 2008).

Walking towards the sun

From a physical perspective, the act of stretching before and after, and walking in the open, fresh air afforded me the chance to slow down my mind, breathe deeper and be more present. In doing so, I was reminded of the immediate and long-term benefits that these experiences bring. Immediate benefits such as the positive effect on my mental health, the connection I feel towards the great outdoors, bonding with friends, and my appreciation for the privilege of living in South Australia where incredible outdoor spaces are so easily accessible and widely varied. Examples of the long-term benefits I felt included the memories created, the positive feelings associated with the experience of walking through nature with friends, and increased concentration upon returning to working from home.

The intersection of 3 trails

On reflection of this experience, I can appreciate as a result of my own experiences, and understand the importance for opportunities to be presented to students throughout their schooling. Research also supports findings for increased student participation and engagement in class resulting in higher academic achievement, and overall physical health and state of mental wellbeing, due to the positive effects of physical activity and the learning outcomes available in outdoor spaces (Okely et al., 2012). The Outdoor Education Australia website also supports this by stating “outdoor activities provide a valid environment for developing movement competence, promoting a sense of wellbeing, enhancing personal and social skills, and developing an understanding of the concept of risk versus challenge” (Outdoor Education Australia, 2015).

References

Beames, S., & Atencio, M. (2008). Building social capital through outdoor education. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor

 

Learning, 8(2), 99–112. https://doi.org/10.1080/14729670802256868

Okely, A. D., Salmon, J., Vella, S., Cliff, D., Timperio, A., Tremblay, M., Trost, S., Shilton, T., Hinkley, T., & Ridgers, N. (2012). A systematic

 

review to update the Australian physical activity guidelines for children and young people.

Outdoor Education Australia. (2015). Outdoor Education Curriculum Guidelines for Health & PE, Geography and Science. Outdoor

 

Education Australia. https://outdooreducationaustralia.org.au/education/oe-curriculum-guidelines-for-hpe-geog-and-sc/