Every year, the International School of London enjoys the ‘Week Without Walls’ in September. This is when all students from Grade 3 upwards (primary and secondary) enjoy their residential trips.
For my first ISL residential, I had the pleasure of accompanying Grade 5 on their ‘Wild Week’ with Nick Carter. Nick’s goal was to give students learning experiences that they wouldn’t be able to get any other way. Weaved throughout these experiences were the two themes of kindness and risk-taking.
Kentish Town City Farm
Our first stop was a city farm in London. The students enjoyed a series of activities working alongside the staff and animals. The children found out more about the farm, the volunteers and the many ways that the farm helps others. This launched a discussion about what the farm embodies – kindness. Nick encouraged the students to take inspiration from Kentish Town City Farm and to support each other with kindness throughout the trip.
We then drove to Pease Pottage, where we spent the first night.
Building Shelters and Pitching Tents
The students were shown how to create outdoor shelters using natural materials. Boris, our guide, demonstrated how to use branches, twigs, laves and other forest materials to build shelters that protect against cold, wind and rain. In groups, the students made their own. The children were excited to create the shelters and were very proud of their work.
As an alternative sleeping option, students also learnt how to pitch tents. They then had a choice of where to sleep. There was also an indoor option for those who needed it.
We ended our first day with food, drinks and activities around a campfire. The students learnt how to use a flint and steel to create fire. They then toasted marshmallows and made s’mores.
As the forest got darker and windier, one by one, the brave students gave up on their shelters and opted for the more comfortable option (relatively!) of the tents. In the end, only one person was brave enough (or stupid enough!) to sleep in a student-made shelter…
The next morning, students were visited by Safari Pete and his animals. These activities included owls, lizards, meerkats, snakes and more! There was even a crocodile that everyone had the opportunity to hold. Pete taught the students all about these exotic animals and how to treat them with care and kindness.
We then departed on our long journey to the Peak District, where we’d spend the rest of the week.
Weaselling, Abseiling and Caving
Thursday was our busiest and most exciting day, as students rotated around these three activities. They all took place within natural environments in the Peak District. Nick reminded the students of bravery and how to support each other with kindness and encouragement. Students also encouraged us teachers as we modelled this risk-taking.
In particular, the cave was perfect for us. The main route was relatively spacious and unintimidating. All of the children were able to enjoy this experience. However, there were optional tight spaces that courageous students (and teachers!) were able to try.
The Journey Back
After a morning of team-building games, we loaded up the coach and headed back to London. The journey was going very smoothly until we stopped at services for a toilet break and snack. During the stop, the driver noticed an issue with the coach and so we had to wait at the services for a replacement. Luckily, this particular location had a large green area where the children played happily. We also treated them to a KFC and Subway for being so patient and well behaved!
I’ve taken part in many residentials over the years, but none as enjoyable or adventurous as this one. The students learnt many valuable lessons over the four days, mostly about how much they can achieve if they take risks in a supportive environment. The students returned home with a very real sense of accomplishment.
Massive thanks to Nick and his team for making the residential so special and memorable. We’re already looking forward to next year!