Jenolan Caves

The Norman Invasion of 2016

August 16, 2016

Adventure Caving on a school excursion.

While I can’t clearly remember 1958, I know it was a very eventful year.  Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole, Mao Tse Tung led China’s ‘Great Leap forward’ as the US launched their first satellite. ‘The Fly’ was a sci-fi cinema sensation, the hit song ‘Purple People Eater’ was recorded. And in Australia, Normanhurst Boys’ High School opened its doors. 

One of its very first endeavours was to take its pupils to experience the wonders of Jenolan Caves – a wise decision. Since then, every year, ‘Normo’ has visited Jenolan Caves.  At Jenolan, I once heard someone laughingly refer to this mass migration as the ‘Norman Invasion’.  Jenolan is the main part of a 5-day excursion, which also encompasses Scenic World in Katoomba, Bathurst’s Sheep and Cattle Drome and the historic gold mining villages of Sofala and Hill End.  This week’s visit, by 135 boys and 12 teachers, was their 58th!

The excursion has many positive outcomes. The students can immerse themselves in the history, culture, technology and architecture of the gold fields of Hill End and then experience sheep and cattle farming in Bathurst. Most importantly, their activities over 3 days at Jenolan tie in with all of the following areas of the Year 7 curriculum:

·         English - Past, Present & Future – Bush Ballad Poetry

·         Music at the Caves

·         Maths – How Big is the Grand Arch?

·         Science – Weathering, Erosion & Deposition

·         Science– Stalactites and Stalagmites

·         ICT - create a digital presentation

·         Group Film Production

Every year, Normo utilises the caves and surrounding area to maximum advantage. They fill the hotel.  They take over Wallaby Hall so they can prepare their own lunches, production-line style.  They use the barbeques, and they enjoy a formal dinner in the Grand Dining Room. Each boy experiences 2 show cave tours, 2 Adventure Caving tours and a self guided Nettle Cave tour. In between caving activities, they complete assignments, transform their photos into presentations and they produce creative videos about their adventures. On their final night, on Jenolan’s big screen in the Kanangra-Boyd Gallery, they watch the combined video that they have made – always hilarious! 

On the excursion, the Year 7 boys are split into 14 groups, each mentored by a Year 11 boy. Normanhurst Principal, Mark Anderson, said, “This mentoring role is very important for the older boys, for building maturity and leadership skills.  Soon they will need to write resumes or scholarship applications, where volunteer work, such as mentoring is valuable, because it indicates compassion and a willingness to serve others - sought-after characteristics in any profession.”

For the past 26 years, Design & Technology teacher, Phil Rumbelow, has organised the highly complex 5-day excursion.  It is a big job, but he recognises many benefits for the school and for the boys.  He said, that one of the most important goals is “getting kids away from their comfort zones and teaching curriculum in a ‘real life’ context.  The best experience by far is Adventure Caving, because it builds team spirit, which reinforces what we call ‘Team Normo’.  We say, ‘If we all do better, we all do better!’ What that means is that working together and helping each other ultimately drives up our ATAR school ranking”.

 This teamwork tradition is a proven formula for success and is vital for Normo, an academically selective public high school. In 2015, Normo ranked very high, 25th out of 583 NSW high schools.

Jenolan is very proud to be an entrenched part of a Normanhurst Boys High School tradition – one which helps to produce academically successful ‘decent human beings’.  We look forward to hosting ‘the Norman Invasion’ for many years to come.

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4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

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