It all started with the jog and dip!
By Kathleen McKie and Jane Bregazzi, Invergordon Academy
Having volunteered to accompany twenty S6 pupils on their Outward Bound course, we were made aware that we had the option to join in as much or as little as we wanted. To the pupils' apparent approval, we both immediately and literally 'plunged' in at the deep end.
The first challenge of the week being a 'jog and dip' in Loch Eil. Having enjoyed the shock, we made a secret pact to sneak back at 7am the next day for a morning swim. This time the reaction of the pupils bordered on disbelief.
From then on, our enthusiasm, and understanding of both the pupils and ourselves, grew steadily throughout the week as we were presented with each challenge. We were divided into two groups of ten pupils, each with one teacher accompanied by 1 or 2 instructors, depending on the activity. The ever-impressive Whyte & MacKay ambassador Scott Lyth (and his seemingly endless stash of fruit for us and snacks for the pupils!) joined one of the groups. Scott was approachable, supportive, and motivating, as well as a fascinating raconteur. Frequently we would find him being interviewed by a group of wide-eyed pupils.
It quickly became apparent that the instructors would tailor the challenges to the mind-set of the members of the two different groups. Their plans for the week would change as they liaised with the pupils, even if this meant a last-minute reorganisation of logistics. We really felt the benefit of this throughout the week, as the pupils were aware that their opinions and views were always taken into account. The teams were encouraged to be self-reliant under the guidance and watchful eye of the instructors, who seemed to know exactly when to triple–check climbing ropes and when to displace fear by engaging a pupil in a mid-abseil discussion about piercings!
The pinnacle of the experience was the over-night expedition to the top of Ben Nevis, including setting up camp halfway up Britain’s highest peak. For one of the groups, the route was particularly challenging, as the weather worsened, daylight dwindled and there were still large sections of rough exposed ground to cover. Many of the group had not hill walked on this scale before, especially not with tents and supplies on their backs. The sense of achievement in engaging with the natural environment was immense, but the overall challenge of working together and motivating each other as a team was a most thought-provoking experience for both of us, as well as the young people. In this exposed situation we gained a sense of the vital importance of maintaining a positive attitude for the team and how much this contributes to an individual’s growth mind-set.
One participant, reluctant and apprehensive at the start, gradually developed the confidence to both lead the group through activities and to accept the help and encouragement of the team. This particular individual’s transition had a huge impact on us, and we believe it strongly reflected the ethos championed and fostered by the Outward Bound instructors, that we were lucky enough to work with.