So when I was asked to bring students from Al Nahda School on the inaugural Outward Bounds UAE schools trip I jumped at the chance. I had great expectations for the experiences the students would have.
The initial briefing in our school by Stephen Bishop was an eye opener for a lot of the students. They all wanted to go on a trip, yet had not really thought about the learning side of the expedition. The students had very little experience of their own abilities or limitations and the quote that stood with them from the initial briefing was, “If you never try to push your limits you can never find them”.
The ethos of Outward Bound really came through when the students struggled to set up their camp and cook for themselves, possibly for the first time, that first night. This all took the guts of three hour, the phrase “too many cooks, spoil the broth” came to mind as the Leaders and myself sat back and watched the students try to tell each other how everything should be done while not really understanding it themselves. A couple of burnt pots later, we actually managed to have a very nice dinner…. Cooked by one person.
The disorder and lack of unity was very quickly dispelled the following morning when Allen and Susan woke the students up shortly after sunrise. The camp was struck in half the time it took to set up, with the students working in equal pairs. Alan capitalized on this by allowing the students to pick roles and responsibilities of the team from his cards. These included a leader, a back marker, a safety officer as well as others. With this done set off on our first hike with high spirits.
The beauty of the mountainous landscape led some of the students to want to climb higher and higher in order to get the best view. Soon most of the roles had been forgotten and the troupe had to be called to a stop. Once reminded we were off again, although this happened throughout the day, definite improvements could be seen in the responsibility each student was taking in their role and how that affected their team.
This new found focus lead to the students drawing closer together and working as a team, following directions from their leader, a boy who was one of their peers 24hrs earlier on the bus. Taking responsibility for the safety of the whole team and understanding that the pace that was set needed to suit the slowest and least able in the group rather than the finding the most adrenaline fuelled route up or down the mountain.
After a long day of hiking that, for me at least, showed hints of the men these boys could become we reached our base camp. The camp was set up and dinner was cooked in forty five minutes. The unity of the group had them working like cogs in a clock. This was impressive to see after just one day and only led me to wonder how much more could be achieved had we had the time for a full four day expedition.
The following morning they broke camp and marched out of the mountains a little bit wiser and little bit stronger, tired, sore and hungry but definitely a team.
When the students were asked how they felt the trip had been, their response confirmed my childhood memories of camping. They admitted it had been harder than they expected, they enjoyed the challenge. They learned more about themselves and their team mates than they knew and they would remember their time fondly, with the hopes to come back and do more soon.
When asked, I was over joyed with the massive difference the team at Outward Bound had achieved in such a short time and would highly recommend it to any school, business or team unit that wants to promote understanding and self-awareness.