“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” – Amelia Earhart

There has been much written in the past few months about the loss of learning caused by the COVID pandemic. Almost as much has been written about our young people’s mental health and following on its heels how their social development has been hampered as a consequence of not being in school. All of these are true and should concern us as a community. What isn’t so often seen as having been missed is adventure. We should be in no doubt, our young people have lost out on opportunities for adventure and both families and schools should work hard to make up for lost time.

Year 5 spent much of the week in the Auvergne. It is one of the BSP’s aims to make the most of the educational opportunities presented by being in France and this trip provided a showcase of what France has to offer. A stunning region, we stayed in the spa town of La Bourboule and spent three days exploring, with the assistance of local guides, the chains of volcanoes that characterise the region. What had been explained in the classroom was in front of us in the great outdoors. Pupils had the chance to stand on the lip of a volcano, they made the earth tremor and examined volcanic ash preserved in this most singular of landscapes. They know about the different types of volcanoes and how they came into being, in doing so introducing them to the awe-inspiring story of our planet. Some overcame their fears and braved a volcano themed roller-coaster ride. There were adventures in many and varied forms.

But residential trips aren’t just about taking lessons from the classroom or textbook into real life. They are, for many, a chance to spend time with friends, to live and work together and to challenge themselves in so many ways. On Tuesday, these 9- and 10-year-olds walked a challenging thirteen kilometres. For some, the furthest they have ever walked and far more than they really knew they could. Others had to cope with living in a dormitory, their first experience of communal living, deprived of some privacy and creature comforts, a similarly important learning experience. Local food was eaten, beds were made and almost everyone faced that field trip conundrum of not being able to put all the stuff they had brought back in their bag at the end of the experience. Why is it that clothes that fitted into bags on the way out so rarely go back into the rucksack or suitcase at the end of the stay? Valuable lessons were learned, and importantly challenges of a variety of types were overcome. Many of these were met by individuals challenging themselves rather than asking an adult for help.

I’m sure that Year 5 will remember a good deal about what was for many their first overnight school trip. They will remember the adventure. Whilst they may, over time, not recall the finer points of volcanic reactions they are likely to be able to draw on the experience and what it taught them about themselves. Key Stage 3 students will travel further afield this holiday and this weekend our Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditioners will challenge themselves rather closer to home. Lessons for life will be learned and friendships enriched through this experience of adventure.

Nicholas Hammond