Six go to the Woods

OK, let me begin with a confession: I have never spent a night in the wild’ before. I tried camping in a school friend’s garden once, but only lasted half a night. I prefer the comforts of a hotel with en-suite shower. However, part of Mr. Drake’s vision for his expeditions is to take pupils out of their comfort zone and – in our increasingly technological age – it seems more important than ever to get back to nature; to remind ourselves that we can exist without the television, internet or even running water. I was nervous, but if Year 6 pupils were willing to give it a go…

We could not have asked for better weather: warm (but not scorching heat), cloudless blue skies, and the idyllic setting of the Brown’s woods. Outdoor Education might sound like a trendy soundbite, but this expedition was genuinely educational, as well as great fun: learning to build shelters from natural materials; identifying different types of tree; understanding how nettles can serve practical purposes… While the adults were busy preparing a delicious stew on a camp fire, the boys and girls created some practical shelters, working in twos or threes and taking on board Mr. Drake’s advice about safety, warmth etcetera. As dusk saw the woods darkening, England’s penalty shoot-out success against Colombia brought cheers to the fireside. The subsequent storytelling was of a more dubious quality, but maybe that is something we can work on in the classroom.

Personally, I was unsure whether I would last a night in a hammock but there is something magical about looking up to see a green roof of foliage rather than a ceiling. The five a.m. sight of Nick Stanton approaching with a spade was momentarily worrying, until I realized that he had been digging a hole for what Mr. Drake euphemistically refers to as ‘admin’.

The following day, no one complained as pupils took it in turn to map-read our way back home from Cockfield Green to OBH along rural footpaths. On a glorious summer’s day, what better way is there to remind ourselves how lucky we all are to live in the Suffolk countryside? OBH pupils are incredibly lucky to have a knowledgeable, patient teacher who brings life in the wild alive for them, guiding them through simple but essential life and survival skills. I might even volunteer for the next trip. Now I never thought I would say that.

Dr. Marshall, 4th July 2018

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