House Camp 2015
There are very few things, as a teacher, that can beat the excitement of an imminent departure of a school trip. The chaos that is loading bags and students on the coach, the constant head counting and the final admin checks before departure taking place at exactly the same time as making sure students are not smuggling gallons of fizzy drinks on with them presents quite the logistical challenge….even more so at 6am.
The aim of the house camp experience was to challenge students to be comfortable with putting themselves out of their comfort zone. To introduce students to house members outside of their normal peer group and develop their confidence to encourage and support other students, and staff, that they do not normally encounter on a regular basis. These aims formed the opening discussion for all the activities the students took part in and that happened as soon as they got off the coach. Bags, were deposited in a secure room, students were counted again and marched off to get their harnesses on. My group’s first activity was abseiling off a 45ft tower – I can’t imagine any other task would have provided such a “we’re here let’s crack on” sort of challenge.
It was this first session that really set the two days up for my group and I know that was a similar experience for other staff. I had one or two students who actually ran to the tower, such was their enthusiasm to bounce backward off a 45ft platform…..others took a bit more persuasion. We had one student who climbed up, looked out, and then came back down understandably daunted by the height. But, with lots of genuine and compassionate support this student went back up the tower, balanced on the balls of her feet, on the edge, for 5 minutes, before having calmly abseiling down the tower – to a huge congratulations at the bottom.
We moved on, over the two days, to rifle shooting – huge competition, 3G swing – ridiculous heart stopping moment when the catch was pulled, fire making, sensory trail, vertical climb and the hugely fun crate-stacking challenge, where the greatest cheers were reserved for when one student took the other one’s crates out resulting in leaving them swinging in disbelief.
My favourite moment of the camp though would have to be the camp fire at the end of the first day. To see 200 students arranged in a natural amphitheatre with a huge camp fire at the heart of the group, dancing and singing in response to the madness that was orchestrated by the superb scout leaders was a sight to behold. Amongst all the work we do in schools, the curriculum, the exams, working tirelessly to improve the College experience for all, these evening reminded us all about a matter of equal importance – the opportunity for children to mix with others, to laugh, to challenge themselves, learn practical skills in the outdoors in the comfort of the support and positive regard of all those around them. It was tiring, it was lively, it was hot but it was totally fun all throughout the four days for the 400 odd students who made it.
The house managers and Mr Kelsall should feel very proud about what they have started here and we look forward to more students taking part in this experience over the next few years.
by S Warburton, Vice-Principal