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The idea for the “Bibbulmun Challenge” at Chrysalis originated many years ago from discussions in our Educational Philosophy Sub-Committee. At the time, we were looking for a modern equivalent of a “rites of passage” experience for students approaching adolescence. This type of experience symbolizes the growth of children moving to a new stage of their life and into high school and seemed largely unrecognized in our modern society. It was also important to find a process that was repeatable, as this is what makes most community rituals successful. Walking the Bibbulmun Track provides a similar, though different, experience every year and one that is sufficiently challenging for participants to be “stretched” in ways that make them know that it is a real achievement.

Over the past 18 years the Bibbulmun Challenge has been the Chrysalis community ritual that has provided this type of initiation ceremony. It is also a time in nature, away from electronics and everyday life, where students can reflect on their experience at Chrysalis and what are their fears and excitement to come. At our school students progress to a variety of different high schools, so for this cohort, who generally know each other well, providing space and time to share their hopes and concerns together, without outside distractions, is a great opportunity for all. The Bibbulmun Challenge is also a team exercise, providing opportunities for leadership, social, interpersonal and problem solving skills.

Of course, it is not an easy thing for 12 years olds to walk for 5 days carrying all their gear. We have had our fair share of problems and frustrations, as experienced by most trekkers at some stage. We have experienced injuries, blisters, emotional meltdowns, heat, water logged tracks and torrential rain. However, these types of challenges are an essential part of any successful rites of passage. Indeed, to feel that sense of accomplishment, one needs to have achieved something that is not easy, and maybe something you did not even feel capable of. The difficulties are not what are remembered, rather it is the euphoria of overcoming them and the sense of shared success. A well-known saying in our school is” what happens of the Bibbulmun, stays on the Bibbulmun.”

I believe that the real power of this event comes from nature itself. No electronic gadgets are allowed (except for some safety equipment). Children do complain about this during our preparation sessions at school, but I have never heard a complaint once we are on the Track. Life becomes simpler on the Track, with thoughts slowing and time only linked to the sun. All we tend to think about is where we are heading, what we will eat, when can I put my pack down or take my boots off, or what am I seeing and experiencing right now. The minds of adults and 12 year olds become equally de-cluttered.

In November 2016, Chrysalis as a school collective, finally became end-to-enders. No one person has completed all sections, but our school has. Some participants have gone on to become end-to-enders in their own right, but it is the school community, as a whole, that is proud to now make this claim. The Bibbulmun Track itself is a great metaphor for having and following a vision. All those years ago, Geoff Schafer and others, had a vision of creating a world class walking trail in the South-West of WA. The Bibbulmun Track mostly does not follow the exact route of that vision, but the vision itself is what made the Track a reality.

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