Learning how to build an ice shelter before you perish from the Arctic cold and having to fend for yourself on a deserted island in the South China Seas might be par for the course if you’re a commando but not even Big Arnie had it on his high school curriculum. Students at Lewes Old Grammar School do!
Having just returned from a survival skills course in Finland where Year 10 and 11 learned how to ski while navigating difficult terrain, drive husky teams, and administer sub-zero first aid, the school is planning a second extreme learning trip with Brighton-based Really Wild Education. This time their destination is an uninhabited island owned by a tribal chief in Borneo.
Co-founded seven years ago by former geography teacher Mat Barnsley, who was trained in bush craft and survival by Ray Mears’ instructor John Rhyder, Really Wild works across state and independent schools on curriculum-linked, out-of-classroom experiences in the UK and abroad.
This year it will be setting up a charitable initiative that uses fully-funded trips taken by schools such as LOGS to subsidise students from disadvantaged backgrounds, allowing more children to benefit from the same opportunities.
Before heading to the Finnish city of Tornio, the LOGS students had prepared for their first Arctic expedition with a survival training weekend where they were schooled in emergency first aid, and prepared in search and rescue scenarios.
“From an education skills point of view, this was the best school trip we’ve ever had,” said LOGS Bursar, Tim Laker. “The survival weekend really prepared them to get the most out of the experience, and they flourished in the Arctic environment.”
Mat, who uses similar programmes to improve performance of corporate teams, said research showed that students who’d taken part in the trips returned to school brimming with confidence and more engaged with lessons.
“Feedback also shows that they take what they’ve learned from the wild and use it as examination material, citing their own direct experiences, which are much more detailed and comprehensive, and get better marks as a result,” he said. “Their general happiness and confidence levels at school also went up dramatically.”
For its next Really Wild experience, LOGS will be ‘marooned’ on an island exclusively made available to groups by a village chief and headmaster, in return for help with community projects.
“Our year 11-13 LOGS students will be trained in survival skills and then dropped on the island where they will have to fend for themselves in exotic terrain,” said Tim. “Judging from the experience in Finland, it’s going to be another great trip.”