Conquer the great indoors

2nd February 2001 at 00:00
Anything from juggling to eating an elephant starts with a small step. Alf Alderson listens in as teenagers learn to set realistic goals.

Put 33 students in a room, and give them one hour to learn to juggle - then wait for all but the two who can already do it to say it's impossible. But, says Matt O'Brien, head of lifeskill development programmes at TyF Adventure in Pembrokeshire, if you break the process down into manageable steps, then it can be done.

But what's the point? How can juggling help students identify their goals, whether academic, career or lifestyle orientated?

When asked what their goals were, the Fishguard high school students came up with the usual vague answers - "to travel"; "to go to university"; "to get a good job". While these may be laudable ambitions, Matt believes it helps to achieve them if they're broken down into a series of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound steps (SMART) - which is also the secret of learning to juggle in an hour.

But it's important to have the right attitude, says Matt - if you go into a project thinking "I can't", as opposed to "I can't, yet", then chances are you won't.

TyF Adventure's three-hour session at Fishguard High focused on how a seemingly impossible project such as juggling is made easier the SMART way.

A more bizarre example than juggling was also described to the students - eating an elephant. As one gigantic meal, a fearsome task, but as a series of small daily meals, achievable.

As far as the more mundane juggling is concerned, you move gradually through nine well-defined steps which, over the course of an hour, resulted in an impressive 26 out of 33 people becoming "jugglers".

And then comes the serious bit. Sit everyone down in pairs and ask them to identify their goals again, using the SMART process.

Their first attempt to identify goals and establish how to achieve them had taken little more than a few seconds, following the juggling exercise it became an intense activity that many were unable to finish by the end of the session.

And although the SMART process may have made the exercise much slower, it also helped each individual to determine how realistic their goals were.

When asked if the session had worked for them, there was an almost unanimously positive response. Lucy Bowyers agreed tat it had helped her "to think in more detail about my goals and set achievable targets", while Laura Payne felt that having the right attitude and setting realistic targets would help to make her ambitions more achievable.

This was reinforced by the teachers present - Kemes Bishop, head of sixth form, who felt that "good teachers will help their students set targets and goals anyway, but this is a more personal way for them to realise what their targets might be".

TyF Adventure has an international reputation for its outdoor education programmes, yet here we were juggling balls in a nice warm classroom. As such it may be a good way of appealing to kids who may not enjoy doing battle with the elements.

The success of juggling your options with exercises such as this may be hard to measure directly but it undoubtedly introduces a more realistic approach to students identifying and achieving their goals - and, as new juggler Dan Hall remarked at the end of the afternoon, you'll also know how to eat an elephant.

TyF Adventure 1 High Street, St Davids, Pembrokeshire, SA62 6SA. Tel: 01437 721611. Website: all year. Courses held at the centre's hotel or in schools. Costs from pound;20 per pupil for an afternoon, to pound;250-pound;350 per pupil for a five-day programme. Education Officer: Matt O'Brien.

* I flew with SAS ( or tel 0845 607 277 27), which flies from London Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted airports, from pound;94 return. Ryanair occasionally quotes pound;20 return.The group reservations unit books rooms and arranges transfers, authorised taxi guides and school packages. Tel +46 8 789 24 90 or contact Check also Good youth hostels include Af Chapman, a fine historic boat moored opposite the royal palace, and Langholmens Vandrarhem, a former prison. They charge pound;7 a night for under 15s.Museums: All museums and galleries have education departments which can arrange guides and advise on visiting times. Regular free talks are given in English. The Stockholm Card (Stockholms Kortet) gives access to all public transport, except ferries, and 70 museums and sites. Six days for children costs around pound;20. Details correct at the time of going to press and will vary with the exchange rate.Swedish Travel and Tourism Council Tel 020-7870 5600,

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