Four hundred kilometres northeast of Johannesburg, in the Limpopo province, lies Stanford Lake College. Named after the body of water that is situated nearby, the college is also surrounded by forest, field and mountain, making it perfectly placed to foster one of its chief assets: that of engaging its students with the great outdoors.

“You can attempt to teach a child in the classroom about the importance of character, about emotional intelligence, about effective communication, but it is far more effective if they learn it in this kind of environment,” says Headmaster Craig Carolan.

In addition to its propitious location, Stanford Lake College’s students benefit from a purpose-built, on-site outdoor activity centre. From this facility, the college delivers its DAD programme, an acronym for “Dream And Do”.

Students in Grade 8 and Grade 9 spend a day a fortnight at the centre on the DAD programme, which includes learning about activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, archery and orienteering, before launching into each of these pursuits with gusto. These skills are then applied to yet more exciting adventures, with the students taking part in increasingly long and more autonomous expeditions.

The DAD programme is just one aspect of the college’s wider teaching strategy. As a member of the Round Square movement of schools, Stanford Lake College is committed to delivering a holistic education to its students, which includes instilling six ideals: internationalism, democracy, environmentalism, adventure, leadership and service.

A holistic approach

“We often say to our students: ‘Don’t come to us with a problem, come to us with a solution’, and quite early on their mindset shifts in this direction,” says Carolan. “This combined with the Round Square Discovery Framework – the academic arm of the DAD Programme – develops our students’ ability to be inquisitive problem solvers who can work together while at the same time cultivating their sense of responsibility.”

Stanford Lake College is an independent, English medium, co-educational high school. It caters for around 270 students as both day scholars and boarders, preparing students for the university entrance examinations of the Independent Examinations Board (IEB). Since its inception, the college has maintained an impressive 100 per cent pass rate.

“The programme enables our students to believe in themselves,” says Carolan. “The only ceiling they set is their own.”