Being in the moment
When people talk about mindfulness as being ‘in the moment’, it all seems rather straight forward and therefore easy to achieve – doesn’t it? But truly being in the moment can be much harder to achieve than one might think. But why? Well, probably without out us each realising, our mind, or should I say our attention, is in high demand – largely due to our 24/7 technologically-connected lives. Modern living is taking its toll and it’s making it difficult for us to switch off, find calm and be in the moment. And the evidence to support the belief that our lack of awareness of, or attention to, the present is a major cause of poor well-being that can negatively impact on our mental health.
So where does climbing come in?
Well, anyone who has climbed before – indoors or outdoors – will probably agree that when you are on the wall, working out your feet and hand placements, navigating a route, you tend to be pretty focused (for obvious reasons). Often time at the climbing centre flies by. You become more aware of your body: which muscles you are using (are getting tired), your breathing and level of sweat, which part of your feet or fingers you are using to gain grip and purchase. Very rarely, when on the wall, do you think about checking your phone or wondering what to buy from the supermarket for dinner. Some people describe this lack of attention to things other than the act of climbing itself as being ‘in the zone’ or ‘in flow’. Others call it a heightened state of ‘mindfulness’. They all pretty much mean the same thing, I think: being completely in the moment … consciously in the present.
So, with this in mind, it became more apparent to a colleague and myself at Derrymount – responsible for our Adventure School provision – that climbing might be a fantastic activity to help our students to not only develop their physical skills, overcome fears and barriers, develop self esteem through the effort and determination etc etc (and the list could go on for a long time) BUT the act of climbing could also (maybe?) have positive outcomes on mental health and well-being – if developed, deliberately, as a mindfulness exercise.
Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
Anyway, it’s on a bit of a hunch and a ‘well we can at least try it’ attitude that prompted us to try and look into this a bit further. So, the plan …
In the second week in January 2020, we will be taking a group of young people on a weekly visit to Nottingham Climbing Centre where they will be introduced to climbing and receive a 1.5hr a week (for 7 weeks) period of instruction and opportunity to climb. We’ll encourage the students to be body aware, help them focus on the moment and try and gauge their thoughts, attitudes and awareness of themselves both before, during and at the end of the 7 weeks.
It’s going to interesting to see what impact climbing as mindfulness can have.
Thank you to Alpkit!
We are very grateful to the wonderful people at Alpkit for supporting our 7-week project. The Alpkit Foundation generously donated some money towards the costs of setting up this project, and for that we are very grateful.
NB. Anyone is free to make an application to the Alpkit Foundation, so perhaps a project idea you have might receive their support.
The power of the outdoors
One cannot under estimate the power of the outdoors.
Picture this: a sunny Autumnal day, a bunch of students who prefer being outdoors doing practical things to being indoors sat still, a school therapy dog who also prefers being outdoors, staff who again also prefer being outside, and an outdoor space that is an exciting and stimulating natural learning space. Add to the mix an opportunity for students to get ‘hands on’ to further develop this learning space to make it even better (as part of their DofE work), plus the opportunity to show responsibility, trust and the chance to demonstrate their abilities to work with others to prepare for, light and manage a small fire; and you have the perfect educational scenario:
- students intrinsically motivated to work collaboratively
- a stimulating learning space
- enthusiastic learning facilitators
- and … well, a therapy dog that quite simply just needs a trim.
You could call it the ‘perfect storm’ for a successful timetabled option where students who need outdoor time get their fix and soak in the therapeutic benefits as much as the vitamin D they get from being outdoors.
Maybe not bums on seats (in the traditional sense), but certainly smiles on faces 🙂
DMS Duke of Edinburgh programme
Andrew and I are really pleased that that a number of students have persevered in a determined way towards achieving the DofE Bronze Award – which is no mean feat! Actually, at the time of writing, our first practice expedition is only a few days away and the first batch of DMS participants students will hopefully graduate in time before they leave.
Our second group will take their practice in July and final expedition in September, with a view of graduating before the end of this year’s DofE season.
We’re really proud of all of the students that have taken part this year and really hope to take more students through their Bronze and a group of 2nd year AS/DofE students through the Silver Award during our next academic year.
With the above in mind, we must say a massive THANK YOU to Jackie Bull at DofE Central for helping us secure some important funds to help us get our DofE (and Adventure School) programme up and running. Not only have we been able to purchase the kit we need to run the DofE programme, we have also been able to develop our Adventure School into a key part of DMS; DofE and AS provide valuable opportunities for our young people to get outside, get active and see and reach the potential that is within them (which is sometimes buried and needs uncovering).
Below are a few images of the students organising our kit, and wrestling with one of our expedition shelters when 8 of them were trying to get inside 🙂
The DofE future at DMS is up, but shhhhh… not too much rejoicing – it might upset the neighbour.
Thanks to our new tent stove (bought with funds from DofE Central), we have a warm and less smokey environment – with an extended covered area – that will help us keep working outdoors during the colder months.
Already enjoying the benefits
A lunchtime visit from students from our junior site resulted in smiles all round: archery, some moving of bark chippings, relaxing in the hammocks and bellies full of hot dogs all helped create a very enjoyable lunchtime for all. Speaking of dogs, Gryff played his part too.
With the rescheduled second group of Duke of Edinburgh final less that a week away we would like to wish all the students good luck in completing this monumental task and that we hope the weather stays great for you, and as a reminder that this will take place on 18th & 19th September.
For the parents and carers of the young people please find below copies of all the letters that have been sent home with the young people. If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Mr Tuckwood or Mr Meek.
DofE Bronze Final Itinerary
All timings are subject to change throughout the day dependant on how well group are doing and other external factors.
Tuesday 18th September 2018
09:00 Arrive at school
09:15 Leave School in Minibus
10:15 Arrive at Carpark at Mining Low (Derbyshire)
10:30 Begin Expedition
AT & SB to walk with Group, TM to meet at checkpoint throughout the day
17:00 Arrive at campsite (Rivendale Campsite)
- Set up tents
- Cook food
- Debrief on Day
- Relax & Sleep (Pupils may contact parents if they wish too)
Wednesday 19th September 2018
07:30 Wakeup call
- Cook Breakfast
- Pack rucksacks
- Drop and pack away tents
- Brief for the day
09:00 Leave Campsite
AT & SB to walk with Group, (If the group have performed well on the Tuesday then AT & SB will drop back and supervision will become close rather than Direct.) TM to meet at checkpoint throughout the day (If the group performs well whilst in close supervision they will complete the last section of the Tissington trail with remote supervision.
16:00 Arrive at finish point (Tissington Trail Carpark)
16:15 Set off for school – Pupils to contact parents once on way home to let them know ETA
17:15 Arrive back at school (Time subject to change)
EXPEDITION KIT LIST
- 1 pair of walking boots (broken in)
- 2 pairs of walking socks
- 1 to wear 1 as a spare
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 to wear 1 as spare
- Thermal t-shirt (optional)
- 1 fleece tops or jumper
- 2 walking trousers (warm, NOT jeans)
- 1 to wear 1 as spare
- 1 change of
- Flipflops/trainers/sandals etc (optional for camp site use)
- Warm hat &/or sunhat (as appropriate)
- 1 pair gloves (if appropriate)
- 1 pair shorts (if appropriate)
- Waterproof over-trousers
- Jacket/coat (waterproof & windproof)
- Rucksack liner (or 2 strong plastic bags)
- Sleeping bag (School can provide)
- Torch (handheld or head torch and spare batteries)
- Personal first aid kit
- Expedition food
- Lunch time meals for both days and and any snacks wanted for the day time and evening
- Water bottle
- At least 2 litres of water (several small bottles okay)
- Knife, fork, spoon
- Wash kit/personal hygiene items (some items could be shared as a group)
- Sunblock (if appropriate)
DIY Adventure School improvements
In preparation for the autumn and winter (hard to imagine during the amazing run of weather we’ve had this summer), we decided to make a few adjustments to the Adventure School layout; nothing major but hopefully the tweaks will make a difference.
1. ‘Dry area’ extension
We’ve moved the spare frame we had in the old AS area up to our new base, and used it to extend the covered over area by the fire pit. We used a tarpaulin and some canvas scraps to try and give us increased cover and protection: we needed to improvise with a bucket (see if you can spot why and how in the photograph).
2. Removed the fire pit!
Yes, that’s right the fire pit has gone – well, not gone… just moved.
3. Added a wood burning camping stove and chimney
Yay, we’re so excited by this. We used the old tiles from the fire pit to create a base for a new stove and chimney, which will mean:
- No more smoke in the eyes (or on the clothes) – well, not as much as before anyway!
- The stove will give off a lot of heat ensuring we’ll be snug and warm all through the winter (that’s the plan at least)
- Hot water will be a lot more readily available
- We’ll be able to cook outdoors more easily
We have more DIY planned going forwards, as well as developing the wider space that we have to work with – but that will be the job of the DofE group as this is their volunteering project.
End of update!
Well done, lads!
It’s really exciting to be able to share the news that Derrymount’s first ever DofE group has completed the DofE Bronze Award. We are all so proud of the group of four lads who were part of this amazing achievement.
Just waiting for official sign off from Nottinghamshire.
More details coming soon!
All hands to the pump (or to the nettles in reality)
Ever since a neighbour backing onto the school expressed a lack of enthusiasm towards our outdoor endeavours – I think the sound of happy and enthusiastic students got a bit too much for him – we started considering our options and eventually we decided to move our Adventure School HQ a number metres along our boundary fence.
Now, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it hadn’t been for the fact that the 100m we had to move was home to: nettles, brambles and years of uncontrolled natural growth (no, I’m not talking about Andrew’s beard here).
But rather than seeing this as a problem, we saw this as an opportunity to get the students practically immersed in a hands-on get-stuck-in project that would benefit them and the school in general (for years to come). We set to work removing branches, sticks, nettles, brambles and much more and using freshly cut (and kindly donated) tree chippings.
The result: a safe and usable area… check out the last photo below.
Great job everyone!
The job isn’t finished though (we have big ideas), but as you can see, things are looking a lot better and we’re back to normal with the bushcraft and outdoor hands-on activities which we all enjoy. There’s even a hammock or two for those that just need to lay back, look at the canopy and chill.
It’s the end of the term – yay!
Well, our first term of Adventure School is all but complete and what a term we’ve had! Things have gone really well, in general, and the students have all participated well and got lots of enjoyed from the activities we’ve completed and their time in the outdoors.
Some of the activities they’ve participated in include:
- Camp fire cooking
- Bush craft and knife skills
- Navigation, compass skills and hiking
- A BIG sleep out for Framework
- First aid and survival
Oh, and lots and lots of clearing and preparation work as we expand the Adventure School area for future adventures in the spring.
So , the students and staff are really looking forward the forthcoming term but before we close for the end of 2017 we have to say a few big thank yous; firstly to Go Outdoors for the tent they kindly donated to us to enable us to keep Adventure School open during the Winter.
And another big thank you also goes to Dickies for the hard wearing clothing that they kindly sent us; I think all of the students and staff have at some point worn a gilet, softshell jacket, or a pair of Dickies gloves!
Sleep out for the homeless
After a very successful Big Sleep Out for the homeless a couple of weeks ago, some of the hardy group that braved a cold night under the stars headed over to Elizabeth House ( a local Framework provision for the homeless) to hand over the money and items the students had collected as part of their Big Sleep Out.
All in all, they handed over:
- £460 in sponsorship
- several bags (and a suitcase) of clothes and shoes
- a Christmas hamper full of chocolate and other goodies
During the handover (at which the Nottingham Post sent a reporter/photographer attended) the students chatted to the Framework staff to learn more about homelessness (causes and ways to support homeless people) and got to see a little glimpse of the accommodation and services Framework provide. It’s clear that Framework provide valuable resources to some of the most vulnerable in society, so it was a real pleasure to do our little bit to help them. We’re hoping that this is just the start of something longer term i.e. we hope to make the Sleep Out for Framework an annual event at our school.
So, once again, I’d like to say a BIG well done to the students who took part in the sleep out and visited Elizabeth House, and of course… a BIG thank you to everyone who sponsored the students or sent in clothes / shoes.