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Life’s lessons in one weekend

The Duke of Edinburgh is all about personal growth and development and nowhere is this more apparent than in the expedition. While the award is about lots more than a three-day hike through the countryside the expedition is like a small mirror of the wider award. In this article I will explain how the award sends students on a journey, metaphorically when it comes to the wider twelve-month award and in a very real sense during the expedition.

Success in the expedition involves a number important qualities and can be a real test of a young persons’ desire to be the best they can be in a difficult situation. Get it right and it will be the best three days of your life. Get it wrong and it can be a painful and emotionally draining experience.

Expeditions are ultimately about team work. Students have to be in teams of four and every stage of the expedition from the planning before they have even left to unpacking the wet smelly kit is down to them working as a group. Problems will present themselves at every stage and it is only by working together that students will be successful.

This sounds simple enough but working well in a team takes a lot of inner strength and students will have to think very carefully about the way that they act in every situation. Do they get stressed when things go wrong or do they stay calm and work through problems? Do they respect the wishes of others or only consider their own feelings and ideas? Do they accept that problems are better shared or insist that they know best?

These are all things that students will potentially face during an expedition and for many they may be questions that they have never had to think about before but one thing is for sure. They are questions they will almost certainly face again in school, university, their careers and their personal lives. This is why the expedition is so important and why students always tell me years later whenever they come back to visit, as they often do, that the things they learnt during that relatively short period of time have helped prepare them for the many challenges they have faced since leaving school.

It’s clear from the above that the expedition can see students change in a very short period of time because it essentially forces them to think about the kind of person they are. This also happens in the award as a whole through the different sections that students have to complete. It asks questions about the things they care about and what they can do to help. In the skill sections it challenges them not to give up learning to play the guitar or whatever it is they have set themselves to do just as it gets really hard and again facing these challenges and answering these personal questions will see students grow and develop. If I can climb this hill with this backpack, then I know I can face the next hill and the next hill and then I know I can face whatever is put in front of me well beyond the year I have spent completing my Duke of Edinburgh Award.

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