Sunday, 5 June 2016

SPA Geog Year 10 Team national competition winners head to Wales with Wide Horizons for the £10,000 adventure


Where does your adventure start? For Year 10 Geography it began in Wales! Have a look at what the students got up to with their national competition win. That's a £10,000 all expenses trip (including travel) with food and extreme activities. SPA Geog #Where's your Geography classroom?

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The first question I am going to pose to you before you read the account of the Year 10s in Wales is where will Geography take you today? What will you make of your Geography study? 

What makes this subject so special is the amount of 'Geography in reality' you can experience outside of the realms of the classroom environment. Looking through the blog since January we have had an array of different experiences that are open to all students. Why not take ownership over your own learning? Why not ask the team today about the next adventures? Why not come up with your own opportunities and ask the team to organise? Amy asks you that question below:

'The trip to Wales helped me build my confidence and trust in others, and it helped me make friends' (Gareth M).
Firstly before I illustrate to you the lasting memories created in Wales, I want to commend the students. Participating in fieldtrips and outdoor learning is made for the teachers by the students within it. All students who went - even you Folarin - were a credit to the Geography department and assets to the school. Congratulations to all of you who either tried a new activity, conquered a fear, met a new friend or learnt a new skill. This epitomises what Geography trips are about! I myself had a wonderful experience and I will remember this as my first national adventure with St Paul's Academy. Where shall we go next?

After a grueling 5.30am start to our journey to Ty'ny Berth from St Paul's Academy, the students were still lively, much to the dissatisfactions of the teachers. It was decided that we would travel on an afternoon Hike before our revision session in the evening in three teams. Students were able to see Geography in action with glaciation having shaped the Welsh valleys and also see a river entering a lake.

From left (Joshua, Lateef, Breeana, Steve, Elizabeth, Jessica, Klaudia, Eljay, Anna and Ieva.

For many this was the first time viewing this type of geology or seeing these types of landscapes. It allow the students to become familiar with their surroundings. For Klaudia and Eljay it meant actually walking in the river crossing. I am bias and I think that PC Verrall and Miss Scorah would disagree but I had one of the greatest groups!
Marcell, Nathan, Maureen, Ahmed and Taniesha drinking the spring water.
After dinner we went on a Night Hike into the mountains. Each team travelling on a different route. I must admit that some of the students are scared of their own shadows! This gave the students a chance to explore, see nature in all of its glory (Folarin managing to find a sheep's skull) and experience the challenges of hill walking. This included river crossings, pot holing and even a student getting stuck in a bog (mentioning no names here but you know who you are!).

The boys kitted for their night hike. From the left (Kwabena, Kai, Steve at the back, Ahmed, Joseph, Nicolae, Marcell, Hugo, Mateusz, Nathan and Joshua)

'It was an unforgettable experience. I loved everything about it' (Anna A).


It was a great experience but at times I thought I was going to die' (Ieva B).

The hike was approximately 2 hours in length and took us deep into the mountains. We arrived back at the centre at approximately 9.30pm just in time for a revision session! The students the following week had GCSEs and the agreement was 2 hour revision sessions per day on Science, RS, PE and History. The students were particularly driven to do this every day without argument and on the first evening - although late into the night - students had completed 3 hours or more with the 5 hour coach journey giving them a prime opportunity to do more. For Gareth the amount of revision took its toll.

'It was nice...Yeah!' (Nathan, S)

Day 2:

Students were split in three different teams to complete activities. My own team completed an activity I myself had never tried; rock climbing. Have a look at the different activities that the groups got up to on this day and the views of the different geographical features! 
Can you name the geographical river features?
What is the coastal landform over the mouth of the river?
'The best experience I have ever had' (Mateusz N).
Team Davis Rock Scrambling
An example of freeze-thaw weathering.
Two teams were on the rock face on day 2 which meant our first activity was a rock scramble up the cliff-face without ropes. It meant that the students could perform aerobatics - which you can see from  Lateef below. The other pictures depict freeze-thaw weathering and the students were in awe of being able to see the strength of this geomorphic process on the rock. Whilst my team rock climbed there is always time for a selfie (which many of you overuse I might add). I show you how it's done guys!

'Nature revealed' (Taniesha).

I must commend the students, in particular Fay and Anna, among others for conquering there fear of heights. From the photos you can see the steepness of the cliff-face and the challenges of climbing it. Students were given expert advice before the activity and then were given ownership of keeping their peers safe by being in command of the ropes. Would you be brave enough to try this?

'We had the chance to explore nature in different ways through activities, and I thank God that we won this trip!' (Melanie M).

'We got the chance to explore nature and Geography fully, which we do not get to do often' (Fay C).

The end of the day of climbing culminated in an excursion to the beach where students experienced - many again for the first time - sand dunes, rock pooling and activities such as frisbee.

'I got the chance to overcome my weakness and fear of heights. As the saying goes "positive minds do the impossible" and I got to do this in Wales!' (Maureen M).

Whilst this was the experiences of our day, look what the other group got up to:

The excitement was too much for some....
Dreaming of steering his own ship without capsizing!

Day 3:

Slate mine quarry where abseiling took place.
Day 3 saw our first activity in a disused slate mine. This portrayed to the students the historical industrial past of Wales and the significance to villages like Ty'Ny Berth. The group opted for an easy abseil task first before a challenging free abseil without a rock to walk down. By now the group has become accustomed to Jessica screaming at all points during an activity conveying her fear of heights. Nonetheless we must congratulate her for her persistence in conquering the challenge of heights by abseiling down the wall (even though it took 22 minutes for a 2 minute abseil)!

Abseiling down the less challenging cliff-face in the slate quarry.

The video below demonstrates the challenge of the harder cliff dismount:
'You do not believe how beautiful it is until you are there' (Joshua B).

Whilst students dealt efficiently with this challenge - as it had become accustomed with this group of Year 10 - others explored the lake finding newts and frog spawn and ventured into the mine through the mountain. Klaudia and Joshua caused a near heart attack for Mr Davis by going through water to the other side but travelled in the footsteps of the workers 100 years prior. The photo below depicts how dark the mine was. Many of the students, namely Anna and Ieva, were less confidence with navigating in the dark and were scared of the shadows in the darkness.

'An unforgettable experience that will stay with me for eternity' (Amy K).

The afternoon saw the most voted favourite activity by many of Year 10 SPA Geographers on the trip; Gorge Walking. I must admit that I have never heard so much screaming and the valleys surround the village were filled with noise pollution for St Paul's Academy. Apparently (and I do not speak of personal experience here) the water was ice cold and would wake the dead! Nontheless, the students worked hard as a team to navigate the rapids, climb waterfalls and travel up the gorge of a fast-flowing river. Before we had even started Klaudia found herself in a sticky situation that took the strength of Breeana and Ieva to save her. Have a look at the fun and challenge of this activity below:

                                                                                                    Lovely facial expression here Klaudia!

'A crazy adventure that has been fun along the way. It has also brought us closer together' (Megan S).

As you can see from the videos, some of our more quieter or suggested masculine students were the screamers- is that not right Steve and Lateef?! Jessica didn't want to lose her crown so continued where she left off from abseiling!

'I got to really step out of my comfort zone- it helped me discover how crazy and daring I am!' (Klaudia K).

'Don't I know it Klaudia' (Mr Davis).

Having a break- get to work!

Steve with Eljay.

Steve should be commended on his teamwork skills in this task.

Peace Breeana and Lateef!

Year 10 navigating their way up the gorge.

 'Nature, no parents, no school,extreme activities, friends... and the BEST part; free food!!' (Nicolae C).

Especially memorable was the fact that Year 10 could navigate a narrow gorge and go under the plunge pool into the cavern below the ledge. For students to be able to see the processes that shape the waterfall in reality and experience it in the water brings the subject of Geography to life. There was certainly enough of life coming from each of them when they forced themselves against the water current to go under the waterfall. Some were more successful than others!!

 'It was scary!' (Jessica). 

Have a look at what the other groups got up to:

PC Verrall's team from the left (Marcell, Hugo, Megan, Nicolae, Kwabena, Nathan and Taniesha).

'Eventful' (Folarin).

'It was eventful and scary but still enjoyable' (Kwabs).

Day 4:

Exhausted looking at the pictures?! Or are you excited at the opportunities that you can join in with in Geography?! You decide! Sadly we have reached the last day for this adventure. However, again it was fuelled from the beginning to the end with adrenaline pumped activities! Have a gander:

Our final day took us to the river mouth where Year 10s were to engage with kayaking and water sports. It is harder than the students made it!! Although one boat took longer to be able to navigate the calm waters. Look at their efforts below:

I on the other hand found the whole adventure far too strenuous and given the lack of sleep (thank-you Year 10) it meant I could take another trade-mark Geo Selfie (your so jel Breeana!). I got 40 winks on the bank of the river- time to catch up on some Zzzzz! Check out the photos below!

'Teamwork and laughter!' (Princess Breeana xo).

Students prepping the boats, tying the knots to bind them together and making them ship shape. Ahoy me mateys!

Warm up games with (or without as the case may be) a paddle.

'Going from saying "I can't" to actually accomplishing something is astonishing!' (Victoria A- Her Royal Majesty).

This micro-adventure allowed the students to visualize what we have studied in the Rivers topic on the Geography GCSE course. It developed skills of leadership and working together. If they had worked together then they would havejust rowed in circles. Yet both teams made it up the river and came back quickly on the current of the high tide. 

Now many of you are wondering how I get on such an adventure? The simple thing is you can all do so by being part of our new initiative- #Where's your next Geography classroom? We are looking for new geographers to volunteer, attend conferences and enter competitions to win trips like Wales. The saying is 'you need to be in it to win it!' So why aren't you?! Have a look at the video below and see if you can guess what the students are doing:

This adventure was my favourite part of our trip. For me it brought my subject alive and provided a unique opportunity to experience Wales heritage but also see the necessity that we all need to survive. Got it yet? Here some more pictures:

This picture is my favourite from the trip featuring Eljay and Klaudia.
'I never understood the concept of Gorge Walking and abseiling but this experience has finalised my impression. It's pure wild and I have conquered my fears completing the not-so-impossible' (Eljay).

The Year 10 students will tell you the answer:

Our last activity was accessing a slate mine that was used to harvest slate in the 1900s during the industrial revolution. It allowed us to understand the life of the working class from the village and the fact that at age 13-15 years that you would be working in the mine by candle light. There are foreboding tales of the mine being haunted by workers who had died excavating the slate. Many of the bodies were not found- would you go down here? Check out the pictures below:
Entering the slate mine.
Inside the mine- surprisingly the temperature decreases dramatically.

Students were expected to get out of the mine without torches working as a team,

The Year 10s got to taste the spring water of the mountain, see the cavern bigger than the size of the school and experience the visibility when all lights were turned out. We did have some students - mentioning no names - who are clearly scared of the darkness....
Whilst summarizing the day's activities let have a look at PC Verrall's team and what they completed on the last day.

Team Verrell on the side of the mountain ready for Rock Climbing.

Looking cool PC Verrall!

Climbing the cliff-face.

'It was an amazing experience. I conquered my claustrophobia and my fear of heights. I have also improved my relationship with my teachers' (Marcell U).

Abseiling down from the top.

Being instructed on how to use the ropes to support the climber.

Please do not let me try and convince of the invaluable experiences or the memories these students will now obtain from this trip. All the better for being free and £10,000. Have a read of the selection of quotes from the students on the trip:

'My favourite part was gorge walking because we fell and bruised ourselves' (Rebecca M).

The quotes summarise the feelings of the students but I would like to convey my feelings. It was one of my favourite moments of teaching - not least the most stressful as my first national trip - purely because of the group of students I had the luxury of experiencing it with. The group of students challenged their fears, they worked as teams and led as leaders and it was lovely witnessing their discoveries of Geography it reality. I must thank-you for all being brilliant students and reflecting the school in such a positive light. It is the likes of you as Geography students that make the job easier.

I would also like to thank the staff members, who without them the trip would not have run or been as easy to enjoy. PC Verrall and Miss Scorah you are incredible assets to St Paul's Academy. The success of the trip is a testament to your leadership and devotion to the students. 

I would like to extend my gratitude to the the Wide Horizon staff who supported the students and staff with a high standard of professionalism and excellence. We would be sure to recommend this trip to other schools and future students.
'The staff were really kind and caring' (Lateef L).

I hope this article has portrayed the future experiences you can expect from the Geography team. Please ask them about new trips or see me. Finally the last words to say have to be....

#Where is your next Geography classroom? 

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