Adventure During Lockdown at Markham College
Posted: 14 May 2020
- Communication skills
- Problem solving
- Sense of responsibility
- 12 – 17
- Outdoor education
The Adventure Council at Markham College is a student led team who is responsible for promoting adventure throughout the school. It is made up of 13 students from S1 (12 years old) to S5 (17 years old). Students apply and sit for an interview to be on the council which is then headed up by a student Captain and a staff Head of Council.
In March, earlier this year the Markham College Adventure Council ran into some problems when the school closed due to COVID-19 quarantine and as a result the regular trips which they organise had to be put on hold. This included the amazing Adventure Weekend of rafting, biking and climbing in Lunahuana, the Ishinca high altitude mountaineering expedition in the Andes, and the Middle School Sleepovers on campus.
Not to be deterred, the students on the council decided to re-evaluate what adventure looks like to them and created the campaign “Make Your Own Adventure” using the lockdown as an opportunity to spread awareness that adventure isn’t all about going outside and ‘doing’ activities. The students encouraged the idea that adventure can be done at home through “mini-adventures”, which can be anything that places you outside your comfort zone and challenges you.
Students tasked themselves with trying to spread the idea of an “adventurous mindset”, meaning that any activity can be an adventure if you think about it in the right way: anything from doing the washing up, doing a workout, following a recipe – you just need to find a way to extract the adventure underlying in everything!
Students led by example and started by conducting their own mini-adventures at home. This included making bird feeders, growing vegetable cuttings, making a bike jump, learning an instrument or walking around the house with the lights off!
One of these mini-adventures was to build and sleep in a shelter – simple and something which everyone can do. This was added to Instagram, and those who took the challenge really loved the experience describing it as an escape and a wonderful opportunity to sleep under the stars (a rarity in Lima normally!). This certainly improved students’ mental health and wellbeing.
They captured their adventures and shared on their Instagram page (@adventurecouncil) for the Markham school community to see and challenged them to do their own mini-adventure video. Shortly after that they started receiving videos from other students and teachers that had decided to take the challenge. Eventually they decided that they wanted to expand and share this idea with other schools.
Students encouraged participation via a podcast series on Instagram interviewing different people about what they have learnt through the lens of adventures (some are who you might think of as “adventurers” while others describe ways of finding adventure in unusual places). The podcast series started with some council students interviewing the teacher head of the council Mr Vincent, about lessons learnt while skiing high altitude peaks in Peru. They also had Mr. Karlis Bardelis sharing his experiences as he rowed solo across the Pacific Ocean from South America to Malaysia and @boredofborders on Instagram. They were also able to interview Jake Holland, a ski-mountaineer, paraglider, alpine climber and white-water kayaker.
Since then, the adventure council has had a very successful Virtual Middle School sleepover last week, with activities including: adventure quiz , scavenger hunt , online escape room (these were run as competitions between groups in breakout rooms), shelter building, camp cooking, inspirational guest speakers (Tim Emmett and Sally Montgomery), yoga and singing around the ‘campfire’ candle.
Students then slept the night in the shelters they had built. It was a magical event, really brought the Spirit of Adventure out of the students and the staff who joined in the Zoom. It was one of those shared experiences which can be looked back upon fondly. They council is now expanding this so all of their 5th grade students will have a Virtual Camp (40 students each time, 4 camps) which will include a Virtual Synchronised Swimming Competition! They may even use the format with the grade 6 students, with the addition of Virtual White Water Rafting!
The core issue was finding innovative ways to keep the Spirit of Adventure alive during this period of lock down and social isolation. The Adventure Council had to re-evaluate how they conducted their usual meetings, communicate with the wider student body and school community, keep moral high and engage in challenging ‘adventure’ activities!
The council now meets weekly by Zoom and collaborates on Google Docs. They advertise their campaign in the weekly school bulletin and on their Instagram account. Although they will not be able to run the Lunahuana and Ishinca trips until the quarantine restrictions are lifted, they do have plans for a Middle School Sleepover via Zoom. Usually these on-campus events involve a rotation of three, one-hour long activities, followed by camp cooking on the library lawn, an outdoor cinema and sleeping on the library lawn either in tents or under shelters the students make. Instead, they are planning a series of activities via Zoom, which may be knot tying classes, scavenger hunts, camp cooking recipes, music and even one of the podcast guests giving an inspiring talk on their adventures followed by shelter building by each student in their house or garden ready for the night.
At the moment, the student council is still in the process of planning and it will be fantastic for the middle school students to be involved in an adventurous event despite the restrictions.
During this uncertain time, we’ve had to re-evaluate how we do everything, and we are extremely proud of our students for stepping up to this challenge. They have used a special combination of inventiveness and self-awareness to dig deeper into what it means to have a true Spirit of Adventure. They have taken the responsibility as leaders within their school to help not only bring the school community together during this difficult time, but also to help raise moral and develop their own skills like teamwork, problem solving and communication skills. This has had a huge impact on our students, helping them to recognise that even when there are some things out of our control, we can still act as leaders and manage it.
The biggest long-term outcome of this activity is people getting out of the assumption that “adventure isn’t for them” when really, it’s for all of us. You don’t have to climb a mountain or go rafting to consider having gone on an adventure, but rather develop an adventurous mindset to be able to find adventure within your everyday life and activities. Sometimes that “mountain” can just mean stepping out of your comfort zone, taking new chances and pushing yourself beyond your limits to unlock your full potential.
- Lead by example and others will follow
- Be imaginative: there is almost always a method of having an impact, it just might need a bit more thought!
- Be positive: there is fun to be had even with these restrictions, see them as an opportunity to experience something which wouldn’t have been considered otherwise.
- Communicate: Affective communication is key to spreading the word, use things like social media to reach people.
- Encourage people to do it: The students personally encouraged people to do the challenges by teaming up with other councils, or with posters, or with their own videos showing their mini adventures.
Author: John Vincent, Head of Outdoor Education, Markham College