St David’s College is a small independent school in North Wales in the United Kingdom. Ordinarily, at this time of year, pupils from St David’s College would be taking part in an adventurous expedition somewhere in the world. From locally, here in Wales to Arctic wildernesses, to African plains – and just about everywhere in between. These pupil-centered expeditions involve journeys using a variety of modes of transport. From exploring on foot, the expeditions may also include sailing boats, canal boats, or travelling self-sufficiently in canoes or sea kayaks. The activities take our pupils to the highest mountain tops and to the lowest depths of caves and mines.
Except this year we can’t. But just as St David’s College has adapted to teaching in the virtual classroom, the headmaster challenged the pupils to join him on the school’s first ever virtual expedition to Nepal – to Mt Everest and help celebrate Everest Day across the globe.
Setting off on a journey with an unknown outcome, having the comradery of friends and being part of a team with a shared goal, are always key themes of the school’s ‘traditional’ expedition model. However, ‘The Headmaster’s Challenge’ and it’s accompanying hashtag ‘#get2everest’ created more successes and benefits and worldwide connections than we could have ever imagined.
It’s the first ever ‘whole school’ physical challenge that has got pupils, parents, staff, brothers and sisters all involved. It’s not a ‘sponsored event’ nor is it a ‘competition’ between pupils and houses. Everyone is encouraged to set their own challenges and it’s up to them to try and achieve them.
So how does it work? At the start of the half-term holiday the Headmaster, Mr Russell, challenged the whole school community to see if we could ‘virtually’ walk, bike, swim, row or run, from St David’s College to Mt Everest in Nepal - a distance of approximately 7,500 kilometers. Utilizing an ‘App’, everyone has been able to log the distances that they have been able to clock up at and around their own homes. A total collective daily distance travelled is then calculated and plotted on a map of the world.
Everyone including staff and parents was encouraged to take part and log the exercise distances – no matter how big or small. However, we were soon inundated with requests from past pupils and the wider community if they could join us too.
As we made our virtual journey,the geography department was able to tell us what famous landmarks we would be passing en-route. Almost every department in the school is now part of the challenge. The English department gave us daily facts about authors or scenes from books that we’d pass. History re-lived famous battle grounds and design technology teachers showed us buildings of cultural importance. Art and the chaplaincy showed us how prayer scarfs and flags were made and their significance. Maths kept a close eye on the calculations. Biology showed us the rare and exotic animals that we might come across in the different regions that we travelled through. The cross-curricular list goes on.
The Headmaster’s Challenge has created something incredible that we could all do together while we are apart and as a result has created a community that is thriving on exercise, while learning together along the way. We arrived in Nepal Friday night – perfectly timed to help celebrate ‘Everest Day’ in Nepal.
(The author is head of Outdoor Education at the college)