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'The unlikeliest bonds are formed on residential trips'

Outward-bound adventures can calm even the trickiest of our pupils. But maybe not the cows, writes Steve Eddison

Pupils who don't get on can forge strong partnerships on residential trips, says Steve Eddison

Outward-bound adventures can calm even the trickiest of our pupils. But maybe not the cows, writes Steve Eddison

David looked the beast in the eye and froze with fear. The beast returned his look but appeared somewhat less terror-stricken. Somewhere in its brain it calculated that at approximately 40kg David posed no threat, and elected to remain on the footpath between boy and style. We called for David to walk around it. We implored him to stop staring at it. We explained that it was a grass eating ruminant and posed no threat, but our words fell on deaf ears.

Boy and beast continued staring at each other with neither prepared to make the first move. I decided the only thing to do was to go back and fetch him, but Jarrod beat me to it. In an instant, he leapt the style and raced across the field to save his new best friend. It was a brave thing to do, but waving a red cagoule matador-style and screaming like a lunatic didn’t have the desired effect.     

Because team building is an important part of our residential stay (at an outdoor education centre in the Peak District), Jarrod’s determination to help David should be seen as a positive. In Jarrod’s opinion, David is a freak and there was no way he was going to be in Team Hedgehog with him or share a bunk bed in Higger Tor dormitory. Our attempt at social engineering seemed doomed to failure until someone happened to mention there was a fabulous prize for the best team player.

It's all downhill from here

It must have been confusing for David to suddenly discover his tormentor-in-chief was now his best buddy. And having Jarrod go out of his way to do kind things for him (such as helping him put his duvet cover on, assisting him with unpacking, and taking charge of his sweet rations to protect them from being eaten by bears) unnerved him at first.  

But residential trips are good for encouraging partnerships, and Jarrod’s impulsiveness and inability to listen to instructions soon combined with David’s instinct for caution and quiet reflection to help Team Hedgehog win the Giant Ski Race. This involved groups of four children on one pair of very long skis with ropes attached to the front. The challenge was for each team to coordinate their feet and race down a hundred metre track.

At first, Jarrod’s relentless screams and barked orders caused great hilarity but little forward momentum, and it wasn’t until he listened to his new best friend that Team Hedgehog made progress. "When David says 'left', everybody lift your left foot up, and I’ll pull the left ski forward. When he says 'right', lift your right foot up, and I’ll do the same on the other side,’ said Jarrod.

For outstanding teamwork in winning the Giant Ski Race, for unremitting encouragement in persuading a terrified David around the high ropes course, and for bravery beyond the call of hypothermia in helping Team Hedgehog float the duck out of the big leaky pipe, Jarrod received three certificates and a full-colour book of predators.

For nearly causing a large ruminant to trample a small ruminant underfoot, he was awarded a look of bovine disdain and a very large cow pat.  

Steve Eddison writes a fortnightly column for Tes magazine. He is a teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield


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