6 October 2023
From joining the Combined Cadet Force to completing the notorious Duke of Edinburgh’s Award by the end of Year 11, there are endless opportunities to get outdoors during a pupil’s time at Berkhamsted. But in preparation for those adventures, our Year 7 pupils begin their outdoor education journey in a much humbler setting. Nestled in our own outdoor education site at our Haresfoot campus, our Year 7s gathered for bushcraft, a day of adventure, unity, and wholehearted fun.
Every September our new Year 7s head to the woods, the Girls’ School on one day, and Boys’ School the next, to light fires, cook their own lunch, and build shelters. This year, pupils brought their enthusiasm, creativity, and just enough competitiveness to ensure that their House built the best shelter!
Across both days, sessions started with a game of hide and seek and, with the entirety of Haresfoot campus woodlands at their disposal, there were ample opportunities to go unnoticed (the large green bushes being a favourite hiding spot amongst pupils).
The Year 7s were then separated into their Houses where they were first tasked with starting a fire from Vaseline, cotton wool, and a striker. While some pupils had a tough time getting started, all pupils demonstrated their perseverance by continuing to light the flint until each camp had enough blazing flames to cook their lunch.
Lunch time proved popular amongst the pupils. Upon asking one group of Year 7s what they were most excited for during the day “cooking lunch” was yelled in unison. It’s little wonder that lunch was a highlight of the day since cooking outdoors gave many pupils their first opportunity to cook independently outside of the classroom.
Cooking outdoors took a wobbly start for Stevenson House after they accidentally dropped one sausage on the floor, but the pupils soon picked themselves (and the sausages) back up and were enjoying hot dogs and jacket potatoes in no time.
While the day was jam-packed full of pre-planned activities, many pupils took the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity. “We’ve decided to build our own bow and arrow!” beamed one innovative group of Year 7s as they determinedly moulded some sticks and string into a convincing crossbow under the careful supervision of the Outdoor Education team.
Creativity also drove the boys’ efforts as Swifts House crafted a shrine to their favourite rugby player, George Ford, before wailing the national anthem together- talk about camaraderie!
This may all sound like just a bit of fun- and fun is no doubt a big part of the day- but according to Berkhamsted’s Assistant Director of Outdoor Education, Ross Fowler, bushcraft is about a lot more. “Outdoor Education is all about ensuring our pupils find where they fit, we don’t expect every pupil to be a natural leader, all we care about is that all pupils participate and get involved in the activities; this allows them to build on their interpersonal skills and self-confidence.”
But don’t just take it from the staff, our pupils were also quick to tell of the new skills they acquired thanks to bushcraft “I have really enjoyed cooking and adventuring for myself, I think it will make me really independent” one Year 7 said.
Other pupils even began looking ahead to how bushcraft will help them with future outdoor education experiences. “The skills we learn today will be really useful when we complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award” one pupil correctly observed.
It was clear throughout the day that bushcraft encouraged a sense of resilience and self-confidence in all pupils while providing our new pupils with an early opportunity to bond with their new peers and socialise with their House Groups. From the giggles shared to the teamwork practised, our Year 7s wholeheartedly embraced our school’s value of adventure throughout bushcraft.
We would like to thank Berkhamsted’s Outdoor Education Team for organising such an exciting two days. We hope our Year 7s are now feeling independent and ambitious enough to take on the rest of the year!