Activities & Clubs

St John’s College offers opportunities for students to explore and share their abilities and interests through a range of activities that exist outside of the daily school routine. Involvement in co-curricular activities can encourage students to develop leadership and teamwork skills, self-confidence and creativity. Our co-curricular program includes sporting pursuits, debating, Duke of Edinburgh Award, Social Justice Committee, environmental interests, community service activities, public speaking, debating, chess, journalism and media and outdoor education programs. The College is also highly involved in Tournament of Minds, consistently competing at Regional, State and National levels. The school organises well supervised enriching trips in Australia and overseas for students who wish to participate, to destinations such as Italy and Cambodia as well as the Eagle Expedition and South Passage.

Debating at Woodlawn

Debating is a skill at the heart of an academic enterprise. It fosters in participants a regard for structure and rules, it encourages research, and it engenders an ability to construct an argument that utlilises a number of considerations. Debates around current issues encourage students to research both facts and opinions on topics which are relevant to them, and the society they will one day lead.

Debating at Woodlawn is fostered by its inclusion in the English programs as a skill and also a body of knowledge. It encourages a more complex understanding of issues which are relevant to the culture students are growing into. It also facilitates an understanding of structure in any written and oral response, and transcending a simple "sound-bite" opinion. Beyond the classroom, teams are organised for interested students to compete in local and regional debating competitions. Speaking skills are also developed in the enthusiastic response to Tournament of Minds here at the College.

Chess at St John’s College, Woodlawn

What’s so good about chess? Chess helps develop one’s thinking. It promotes problem solving, logic, patience and regard for an opponent. Our competition games always begin with the shaking of hands and end with the same. Over the years that I have been taking the Woodlawn chess teams I have seen young people develop their thinking skills, taking these skills to other areas including maths, science and more generally life. And I have witnessed bright, disciplined young boys and girls representing the College at Chess, who would not be given that opportunity at other sports.

Woodlawn competes in a number of chess competitions each year. For the past 12 years Woodlawn has hosted the First Round of the Gardiner Chess Competition. Over 150 students from local primary and secondary schools compete in a day of challenging competition. Over the calendar year Gardiner Chess promotes three more competitions at schools in the local area. At each of these competitions Woodlawn consistently enters over 20 students; both boys and girls, which highlights the popularity of chess amongst the students. In 2019 the College was ranked 1st in the Gardiner Chess, Northern Rivers Secondary Competition.

Chess is promoted at school through an open invitation to students to come to the library at lunchtimes. There is a regular bunch of players wanting to play chess; keen to try their skills against one of the more recognised players or against teachers.

For the past 20 years Woodlawn has also entered the Northern Region Country Schools chess knockout. The college has been successful in winning this competition on three occasions. The competition invites schools to enter teams of 4. The winning teams from the six country districts meet in Sydney to play off for the title of best in Country NSW. In 2012 the College ranked 3rd; a wonderful achievement for our four competitors and the College more generally. Whilst we haven't had the success in the past years, we are slowly improving our younger players for future success.

We look forward to the continuation of the promotion of chess in the college and to continued success at the various competitions.

Tournament of Minds (TOM) is an Australasian problem solving competition that challenges Years 7-10 students to develop skills in critical thinking, collaboration and time management. TOM involves teams from both primary and secondary years.

Students are required to solve demanding, open ended challenges from one of the following disciplines:

  • Science Technology
  • Language Literature
  • Engineering Mathematics
  • Social Sciences

Catholic, Independent and State schools compete at Regional, State and the Australasian Finals. St John’s College has a proud tradition of involvement in TOM, and positions in a team are prized (in the past we have had many more students wishing to participate than there are positions available).

The College runs a workshop selection session where students are invited to showcase their ability. From this, students are then nominated for teams in the discipline of their choice.

The aim of Tournament of Minds is to enhance the potential of our students by developing diverse skills, enterprise, time management, and the discipline to work collaboratively within a challenging and competitive environment.

South Passage


South Passage is the name of one of the main channels that runs between Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands in Moreton Bay, Queensland.

It is also the name of a 100 foot gaff-rigged tall-ship that is used for youth training programs. Woodlawn is one of the many schools lucky enough to be able to send students on expeditions with ‘South Passage’ each year.

South Passage is a wonderful opportunity for your child to experience life at sea. The students are actively involved in all aspects of the voyage, including navigation, watch duties, galley duties and actually steering the ship. Whilst on the voyage they could expect conditions ranging from whale-watching in calm seas to pounding through 4 metre swells on a 20 degree heel!

Woodlawn Students Take To The High Seas

In Week One of Term 4 twenty two students and two staff from the College undertook an intrepid adventure aboard the 100ft sailing schooner, South Passage. Year 9 students, Quin and Ellie, recount the mighty adventure they undertook after the sails were unfurled.

After arriving in Manly, Brisbane, all twenty-four South Passage voyagers wandered into the marina to be greeted by the South Passage crew and to have our first lesson finding our way around the boat.

We set off to find dinner and then returned to have our first night on board. We awoke at 6:30am, bright eyed and curious, ready to have our second and most thorough lesson on how to make this ship move.

We had a nice, breezy sail out to Moreton Island where we saw multiple whales, and put down the anchor at Tangalooma. There, we went swimming and snorkelling above scuttled vessels that provide thriving homes for a wide array of marine life. We also climbed massive sand dunes, only to roll, stumble and fall down them again, and played with some massive, spiky, sea stars as gentle warm waves rolled over us.

Our knot tying competition also commenced that afternoon; an event that would continue intermittently throughout the voyage.

We had another early morning rise and this time set off to navigate the inland waterways down to Southport. We had our first trial at the helm and worked in teams to tack (turn) the ship – a real eye opener for many of us. Those who were off watch spent time trying out the bowsprit - a net jutting out from the front of the ship. We also spent time getting to know each other a little better, including everyone’s favourite crew member, Chef Hugh.

On Thursday morning it was time to hit the open ocean and the weather conditions ensured we really did discover just how mighty the ocean is. The winds got up to 40 knots and temperatures felt like 5 degrees Celsius. Many took refuge below deck unless they were on watch or sick. Despite all this, we were constantly charmed to see whales and dolphins. Late on Thursday it was decided that we would take refuge in Byron Bay from the unrelenting southerly winds. We were grateful, with many of us feeling cold, tired or sick, though some were exhilarated by the incredible challenges we had faced that day.

We woke the next morning - rested, recuperated and ready for our final leg of the journey down to Coffs Harbour. The wind held and we stayed under full sail on a constant heel throughout the day. All day waves threatened to dowse us and, occasionally, did. Students on watch were on constant lookout for sailing hazards, especially humpback whales returning to the Antarctic on their southern migration. Some students were rewarded with the most extraordinary whale breach right alongside the ship – a sight many of us will never forget and talked about non-stop for hours after.

We sailed through the day and into the night with the night watch, huddling like penguins in the cold for four hours, waiting and hoping for sleep, yet still exhilarated and proud that we had made it that far. Watch crews rotated throughout the night and, finally, early on Saturday morning, we arrived in Coffs Harbour. It had been an unforgettable adventure but we were very happy to see dry land.

We were finally going to get home and we couldn’t have done it without the help of the crew and each other, but, most importantly, Mr Bailey and Ms Murphy, who did the best job looking after us during the trip.


The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme

The Duke of Edinburgh scheme is a non-competitive program of self-development that is flexible, interesting and fun-packed for 14-25 year olds. Each year several students from Woodlawn receive the highly coveted awards, which add weight to their resume and equip them with life skills that carry them far beyond their school years.

There are three different levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold. Each level involves four mandatory sections, listed below, from which a personalised program is formulated. 

  • Physical Recreation: Break a sweat and improve your physical fitness. This could be through a team or individual sport.
  • Skill: Unleash your talent and broaden your abilities. Anything from refereeing, to dancing, to learning a musical instrument or jewellery making.
  • Volunteering: Connect with your community and realise your passions. Areas of interest may include youth work, the environment or charity work.
  • Adventurous Journey: Discover your sense of adventure and bond with your mates. Students love the camps, which offer them the opportunity to learn about bush navigation, camping and cooking.

Take advantage of the opportunity and embark on a journey of discovery and self-fulfilment.

Woodlawn's 'Charter for Sustainability' is creating a College community and culture conscious of the need to care for and nurture our environment for an environmentally sustainable future. Our students are elected to the Youth Environment Council, that meet once a term to develop strategies to help make our College sustainable. By simple acts of recycling scrap paper, turning off lights in vacant classrooms and using the correct bin, we can be eco-friendly in the classroom and College grounds. St John's recognises that environmental issues are fundamental to the future health and wellbeing for those involved in our College, the greater community and our planet. Thus, we seek to understand the impact of our activities on the enviroment at local, regional and global levels, to minimise these impacts and to find sustainable solutions to environmental concerns. For all living things, Earth is our home. We are one earth community and all species have a right to exist and we have a responsibility to care for the Earth.


The purpose of our charter is to outline the principles, aims and guidelines necessary for our Woodlawn community to consider the past, to address the needs of the present, whilst respecting the future to create an environmentally sustainable world.

Our Vision

To create a sustainable environment and respectful culture, which reflects the Pope Francis' Laudato Si, that enables all to live sustainably into the future.

Our Mission

To engage our College community in activities that empower students, staff, parents and community members with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to achieve a sustainable future. We will respect our natural environment and the resources it offers us and provide a quality teaching and learning environment for all.

Our Achievements

In 2014 our efforts were rewarded by achieving a Bronze Award in the Eco-Schools Program.

The Silver Award, received in 2015, is a milestone in our College’s progression towards environmental sustainability and in environmental education becoming strongly integrated across the school’s curriculum.

2017 saw Woodlawn involved in the Big Scrup Rainforest Schools Project and winning the Young Reporters of the Environment.

In 2019 we were the Secondary Schools Green Innovation Awards champions.