June 9th saw another fantastic Stirling High Bronze Duke of Edinburgh group finish their expedition. Twenty of our pupils set off for a two day hike along Loch Venacher onto Rob Roy Way to camp overnight at Dounan’s Centre. From here it was an 8 a.m. start fighting midges at the campsite to then navigate through Queen Elizabeth’s Forest to arrive again along Loch Venacher for a well-earned rest and journey home. Every participant and group demonstrated a wealth of skills and team work to reach the end.
For those who have not heard of The Duke of Edinburgh Award (DoE), it is a way of empowering young people. To make them confident about making decisions, know they can be self-reliant, work as part of a team, particularly in times of adversity and be a responsible member of a community as their actions can affect others. These as well as many more invaluable skills are developed through the expedition experience of the Duke of Edinburgh: a two day walk through some challenging gradients with one night of camping. If that is not enough every member, as part of a group, must carry all they require for two days and be completely self-reliant and sufficient.
A great deal of planning goes into a two day expedition. All pupils committed to fortnightly sessions over the course of 9 months to engage in learning the skills and knowledge required to keep themselves and their group safe over these two days. As responsible individuals they learned about the Country Code and etiquette of land use. They learned navigation skills, about choosing appropriate clothing and footwear, to develop a food plan that would sustain them for the two day journey, to plan a route, administer simple first aid and much more.
As the training gave way to action, it was clear, for all, that responsibility of their own well-being and their groups sat on their shoulders; and they all rose to this challenge magnificently. It was great to see how they took care of one another when it got physically challenging. That they could work together as a team to make decisions and split duties amicably. That they could employ their camp craft skills to cook their own meals and leave the site as if they were never there. They were a credit to themselves, their groups and their school.
All of this would not have been possible without the huge support and enthusiasm of the staff. I would just like to thank all of those who gave up their time to make this experience possible.