What is Walkabout?

Walkabout is the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood practiced for centuries by aborigines in the Australian outback. A sixteen-year-old aboriginal boy goes through a period of testing under real-life conditions, knowing that during the Walkabout experience every decision and every action will have a tangible consequence for which the participant alone is responsible. At the end of the Walkabout, he will have demonstrated to himself and the members of his community that he is ready to accept the responsibilities of adulthood.

At The Graham School, Walkabout is an educational program designed for twelfth grade students who want to continue to grow and develop their skills and abilities outside of the traditional classroom setting. In doing so, many students gain the personal confidence, direction, and independence needed for college and life in the real world. The student has a voice in the creation of a personal course of study that allows him or her to be in charge of his or her own activities, with the guidance of an on-site mentor and in-school advisors. Walkabout is based on the belief that being tested in a classroom setting does not always prove the ability to apply knowledge. Walkabout, and life, is not a test of what a student can do under a teacher’s direction, but a test of what he or she can do as an individual.

Who is the Walkabout Student?

The Walkabout student is one or a combination of the following:
  • One who would like to complete his or her senior year of high school learning outside of the classroom
  • College-bound and able to benefit from a change in the traditional school environment
  • One who could benefit from a program that prepares young people for independent, adult experiences
  • One who could benefit from a foundation-building year that expands self-confidence and a sense of direction for the future, in addition to skills for life after high school (writing skills, time management, organizational skills, etc.).

Our Program

The Graham School Walkabout Program usually consists of two sessions, one each quarter, during the second semester designed to prepare students with the skills they will need for life after high school. Through listening and dialogue, advisors help student to create their personalized learning experience, drawing ideas from these four areas of interest:

Career Exploration
An unpaid experience that exposes a student to some desired future work and/or helps in the development of good work skills. Participating in a graphic design internship, working in a law office, assisting in a pre-school are a few examples.

Community Service
The student chooses any issue that has implications for the welfare of others. With the help of a mentor or organization, the student then develops a project that raises awareness of the issue and contributes to change. The issue can be as general as kindness or as specific as Habitat for Humanity work. Action can involve an internship, organizing, teaching a class, working in support groups for younger children, etc.

Creativity Involvement in some creative process stressing originality and the interplay between process and product: composing music, art, writing, building, etc. The student must have a mentor from the community overseeing the project.

Logical Inquiry Following any question to a conclusion and arriving at it thoroughly, objectively, and systematically. A student with a mentor could choose to develop a study using questionnaires he/she devises on his/her own to find out what different people fear the most, or what contributes most to the stress in their daily lives. A student with no prior knowledge of physics could choose to build an electro-magnetic device and explain its principles. Also under this heading, a student who meets the requirements may choose to explore a college-level course in an area of particular interest to the student.

How it Works

Each student meets with a Graham School advisor to begin the process of creating an individual Walkabout program. After the initial course plan is completed, the student will prepare a resume and a Walkabout proposal to present to the school for approval and to help introduce him or her to a prospective business or project mentor. After the student interviews with a prospective mentor and both parties decide to proceed with a Walkabout, the student works at the chosen placement under the guidance of the mentor. Here, the student experiences a representative sample of the activities of the organization, in an exchange of service for learning.

Student’s Role
  • Determine working hours with placement mentor/site supervisor
  • Follow agreed plan of Walkabout proposal
  • Notify placement and school in case of absence or tardiness
  • Keep daily journals; submit weekly to Graham School advisor
  • Participate in weekly Walkabout seminar 
  • Earn high school credit only, unpaid
  • Practice taking responsibility
  • Experience accountability
  • Experience a realistic sample of work activity
  • Experience risk
  • Present to the community what has been accomplished through a Symposium presentation
  • Develop skills in real life experience
  • Prepare for adult roles
  • Build good working relationships with co-workers
  • Test himself/herself in adult settings
  • Be able to make educated decisions based on new information
  • Gain confidence through challenge
  • Learn a skill, explore an area of college study, or test a career possibility
  • Clarify goals
Mentor’s Role:

Our community partners serve as concerned adults for our students to interact with and represent a special feature of our school. Because the mentor is outside the schools walls, he or she holds an important position in the students’ lives to guide them into what it means to be a self-directed learner who works respectfully and effectively with others. Ongoing conversation exists between TGS advisors, mentors, and students to outline, design, and implement the work for students at sites.
Experiences at our partner sites are designed to:
  • Build students’ confidence that they can contribute important work that changes and/or adds to an organization, thus fostering a sense of accomplishment.
  • Provide students with appropriately responsible tasks, creating deeper responsibility to the partner site and the larger community.
  • Generate discussion and evaluation of how the internship informs the students’ personal and professional goals
  • Provide opportunities to create products that demonstrate student learning, such as reflections, projects, research results, oral presentations, and artistic displays.
Responsibilities of a Site Mentor:
  • Meet with the student’s advisor to discuss observations, concerns, overall progress of student, and upcoming projects and deadlines.
  • Inform the student about the partner site, work expectations and other important information for their time with you.
  • Keep an eye open for various projects the student could complete. This should be something that demonstrates how a student understands the site or could meet a specific need at your work place. Feel free to brainstorm possible projects with the student and share ideas with the advisor.
  • Complete an evaluation of the student
  • Observe the student and give feedback on what needs to be improved and what is done well.
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