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News > Past Enrolment News > Loreto Normanhurst's Immersions Program

Loreto Normanhurst's Immersions Program

Director of Faith and Identity, Mrs Libby Parker, discusses our Immersions program and how our students deepen their understanding of Australia's First Nations Peoples, their culture and spirituality.
14 Sep 2022
Past Enrolment News

Mrs Libby Parker | Director of Faith and Identity

Loreto Normanhurst is a holistic educational community that is grounded in the Mary Ward tradition. At the heart of this tradition are the principles of Ignatian Spirituality and the deep desire to find and see God in all things. We strive to provide opportunities for holistic education through faith experiences, academic experiences, community experiences and extra-curricular experiences, hence the term we use consistently, the FACE curriculum. However, there is much more to this than meets the eye. The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) forms the basis of the pedagogy of learning, and this is most notably present in the Immersion Program. We apply five key Ignatian principles to the learning that takes place: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. This happens while on immersion and in the follow up and continuation of learning after the immersion experience.

Immersion programs are not a new concept. Many schools and educational learning communities provide optional immersion experiences for their students. This is usually done in student vacation time and is an optional extra and an opt in or opt out experience. At Loreto Normanhurst Year 9 have engaged in the compulsory Far North Queensland experience (FNQE) for 15 years. The two-week program is designed and embedded across the curriculum and is a cornerstone and foundation piece of the Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model (LNSGM). It incorporates outreach and community service and allows students the opportunity to learn about themselves and at the same time learn from others in a collaborative and companionship manner. Students grow in self-awareness along with an awareness of the people and the world in which they live. The two-week immersion to Far North Queensland has as its overarching theme 'Caring for Country, Walking Beside.’

This year, after many years of research and discernment, Loreto Normanhurst launched a school-wide Immersion program that includes compulsory immersion experiences for Year 8, in the form of Songlines, exploring country in our own backyard, Year 9 in the FNQE, and Year 10 and Year 11 in a nine-day experience on Indigenous Homelands in Cape York, Arnhem Land and Central Australia. Each of the immersions were created to build on the previous context and knowledge of the students in relation to First Nations Peoples and incorporated every aspect of the wider curriculum.

Some of our students across Year 9, 10 and 11 share their immersions experience and what they learnt while away.

I really enjoyed going to Homelands and meeting new people from different communities. I learnt about the Indigenous culture, different ceremonies and practices that help manage the land and their people. The best part about Homelands would be the bonding with the community, learning outdoors and in the communities and getting closer with the other Loreto girls.

- Lauren (Y10)

My favourite experience was being welcomed to country. It was such a surreal thing and made me feel a part of the land after it. I also loved helping at the school by playing capture the flag with the kids then helping them read some books. What I learnt on country was the extremely close bond all the people shared with each other and welcomeness to us to their land.

- Sophie (Y10)

FNQ was an amazing trip. I really enjoyed immersing myself in different communities and learning about their culture. I loved learning about different people’s stories and how they have overcome challenges that they faced, and my favourite part was making new and stronger connections with both teachers and students outside of the classroom. Overall, this trip was the best and I will cherish it forever.

- Nikita (Y9)

The best part about my Y11 homelands experience was getting to see the beautiful sights in central Australia up close and personal. The gorge area in the Ronda homeland was very special and sacred and it was a privilege to be able to see it and hear about the stories and significance of the area to the indigenous people.

- Bayeh (Y11)

The best part of my immersion trip was the night when we got rained on at 3am in our swags. After little sleep, the group bonded around a campfire in a serene silence where there was a mutual feeling of tiredness, yet relaxation. We took time to reflect on the experience of being away from home with girls who we had initially not known before and talked to each other.

What I learnt on the Immersion to Central Australia was how to power through challenges and look to the positive side even when struggling. There was also a gratefulness of life at home as well as growing to appreciate the community spirit fostered by Loreto values.

- Erika (Y10)

The best part about homelands was being able to create an authentic relationship with the traditional owners of this land. Not only did the trip allow us to form bonds with each other, but it also allowed us to have a connection to the people living in remote communities. This was amazing as we were able to learn first-hand the experiences of our newfound friends.

- Jane (Y10)

So, what is the purpose of such a large undertaking? What are the outcomes that are being achieved and how does this impact the learner and their worldview? How does it enhance the curriculum within the classroom and beyond? Are the outcomes worth the effort?

The purpose is to provide ethical and justice-based experiences that are based in real life experiences that enable the student to experience, reflect and put into action what it means to be fully human in the world we live in and to develop the tools to respond to this world through the application of our values. It allows our students to see the world through a different lens by accompanying others. Accompaniment is a key element of Ignatian spirituality. Students live with and walk beside First Nations Peoples and listen to and question the experiences they have. It allows them to see the wonder and awe of God’s Creation and recognise and learn about different communities, different ecosystems, see the challenges faced by Australians through their lens and question and draw conclusions about freedom and justice in regional and remote communities in our own backyard here in Australia.

Each of the immersion experiences have holistic learning tasks designed by our teachers to work through on their return. These tasks allow time for reflection, discernment, and action. In some cases, this action may be immediate, however the action can often surface years later in their careers, workplaces, and communities. We often say, ‘you need time for the experience to catch up to your soul’. Classroom work of course follows but there is no greater classroom and learning than immersive experience of the real world. At this moment in time, we recognise the great potential of those in our care to transform the world in which we live. I know of no other school that undertakes this large scale, systematic and transformative approach to learning through these whole cohort immersion experiences.    

At Loreto Normanhurst we have chosen not to allow traditional modes of education to limit our learning and growth. We want to and will provide opportunities for students to have leadership opportunities, to grow and transform justice, and it will change our world. 

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