This year No Limits in Bucks set up their first Duke of Edinburgh Award group, which required expedition training. The Silver Award involves a two night camp and a group activity each day.
We discovered whilst some people had camping experience and were excited at the prospect, some were apprehensive. To make this a positive experience we felt a trial camp would ease anxieties and provide an introduction to camping.
Planning & training
We made a plan to run weekly sessions covering camp basics such as Fire Safety, First Aid, Tent Construction, Weather and Kit to be run at the Life Skills Centre, a regular meeting point. Equipment was sourced by making an important link with the Aylesbury College Duke of Edinburgh Coordinator and staff contributions.
Session one focussed on tent construction in groups of 2-3 setting up tents in the garden with staff support. This activity, in fantastic weather, caught the attention of others’ who then wanted to have a go.
Individuals, who would not usually join in, were drawn to support one another to put tent poles together, while others demonstrated leadership skills. It was great to observe so much determination and team work through a shared aim, in this case the construction of a tent.
These camp sessions gradually morphed to become all inclusive which led to others’ expressing an interest in the great camp experience.
After some research a suitable location was identified and presented to everybody through photos and verbal discussion, providing an opportunity to communicate any concerns. This session included sleeping arrangements and menu planning.
Our thoughts and discussions focussed on the logistics and factors that might have a negative effect on moods and behaviours including: tent sharing, extended periods of close proximity, changing weather conditions and tiredness.
Great interactions at the campsite
It was agreed that for this first camp staff would do the cooking, so our camp participants could concentrate on other camp tasks, including collecting fire wood or putting up tents. A space was set up for people at dinner time which proved to be of great benefit as this enabled everyone to interact and sit together without staff interference. One of the best outcomes of camp was seeing a group of young people all sitting around a table eating and chatting away, completely care free and not relying on staff in anyway.
Staff brought different skills and ideas with them to camp, and ‘camp fire cooking’ were one such expertise; bread twists were made on sticks and then toasted by the students with our support. People were relaxed and calm and naturally mesmerised by the flames. The environment brought about changes in behaviours too; a person renowned for enjoying food and eating very quickly, showed a member of staff how to peel a marshmallow, enjoying it in stages rather than just eating it whole.
Another fantastic moment was ‘silly songs’ around the fire. One particular person, who can get very anxious, was soon singing and dancing around the fire, encouraging others to join in. When asked at the end of camp what he had enjoyed most, he said he wished we had sung more songs around the fire. The camp fire had provided a level playing field for everyone to enjoy and learn together.
On the last day of camp one individual showed a level of compassion and empathy that was unknown to us until now. He had observed a lady fall over on site, and approached her to check she was ok. He soon informed staff and got her a glass of water and it was ascertained that she had sprained he ankle.
A learning experience for all!
While students often see each other around there is quite often a missed opportunity for them to interact – we can get in the way, preventing the interactions we observed during the camp.
The added space that the camping trip brought about opened up a whole host of new learning opportunities and Great Interactions and has enhanced student friendships in a way we could not have anticipated.
The young people that attended the camp now know some of their peers better and are familiar with more staff, and we feel that this has instilled a confidence in them, which they can take forward into their future learning and lives.
Duke of Edinburgh– Catalyst for a great camp experience!
August 26th, 2014