Last week (25th-29th May) I was lucky enough be part of a group of students participating in the Education through Expeditions Leadership Award at Plymouth University. The course is led by Polar Explorers Antony Jinman and Paul Hart and aims to develop leadership styles, confidence and people management skills.
The week began in the classroom with ice breakers and an introduction to the theory behind good leadership skills. Paul and Antony had us on the edge of our seat with gripping tales from their adventures, providing endless inspiration (though refused to tell us the endings until the end of the week!). Using a personality test, we were able to examine our own leadership styles. This lead to a few surprises and encouraged personal reflection on our individual characteristics. Practical exercises highlighted the importance of effective communication and teamwork. On Tuesday afternoon we completed a risk assessment and kit check, and were briefed on our expedition to Dartmoor.
6.50am Wednesday morning and we were stood at the university bus stop, carrying two days’ worth of kit with feelings of excitement and slight apprehension. After a short drive to Ivybridge we were divided into two teams, and set off onto the moors. We were given the chance to lead in pairs and work as team members, navigating using physical features and an OS map. The focus was on applying and developing the theory we had learnt in the classroom. Our last leg of the day became a game of ‘race the rain to camp’ as we discovered just how quickly conditions on Dartmoor can change! Plenty of motivation and encouragement within the team lead to a successful and enjoyable first day.
The second day on Dartmoor we were challenged to lead a leg individually. A task I would have previously shyed away from, I astonished myself by rising to the occasion, inspired and supported by my peers and the ETE team. During lunch, Antony became extremely focused on the time and distance to out next destination. ‘Somethings going on,’ said my team mate Chris, ‘I can’t tell if it’s genuine or if it’s a poker face’. On arriving at our next destination we met with Dartmoor search and rescue. At this point our explorers wandered off, muttering something about meeting another team. Two volunteers from Dartmoor search and rescue taught us the basics of a search and rescue operation, and how to carry a casualty on stretcher over Dartmoor’s rough terrain. It was soon pointed out that our leaders had been gone a while, and that we should search for them. After an ‘I said so,’ from Chris we threw ourselves fully into a mock search and rescue operation to rescue Antony, Paul and Ben (ETE’s Education Officer). This included recovering Ben using a stretcher and carrying him back to the vehicle. While this exercise was lot of fun, it demonstrated the importance and real life application of the skills we were leaning.
On Friday it was back to the classroom to reflect on our experiences on Dartmoor and review all that we had learnt over the week. The careers service at the university ran a session on employability, advising the group on the benefits of advertising our new skills to potential employers. Finally Paul and Antony diverged the endings of their stories, and did not disappoint! On completion of the course we were presented with a certificate as a record of our achievement and a reminder of an amazing week. Then it was off to the pub for a celebratory drink and game of pool.
The Leadership ETE course was a fantastic end to my first year at university. Putting myself out my comfort zone through the award has given me the confidence to take on future challenges. My interpersonal skills have improved significantly and I now have a greater understanding of managing a team of mixed personalities to achieve a successful outcome. I am excited about putting all I have learnt into practice, and am looking forward to further developing my leadership skills. It was a privilege to work amongst such fantastic leaders and teammates.
Many thanks to the ETE team, and to Santander and Plymouth University.
Please have a look at the awesome work of Education Through Exploration at etelivelearning.org
(Photos: Josh McDonald and Beth Deuters)