Growing a child into a rounded human being, we all know, takes far more than academics and involved parents. One of the aspects that prepare a child for life outside the home, or beyond parents' constant attention, is the ability to become responsible for themselves.
This is particularly important in a place where children have their basic requirements taken care of by someone else, where there is little opportunity to experience public transport at a young age and where parents or minders organise much of their day. In these circumstances, a child's independence tends to emerge later than elsewhere.
Doha College is keen to ensure that independence, this essential facet of a child's development, is fostered and guided expertly, and one of the ways to achieve this is through school trips. Apart from the obvious educational value, learning about heritage and tradition, or about a particular industry or profession, trips teach children about their role within in a group on a mission.
In Early Years, this starts simply by remembering which adult they must stay close to. In Key Stage 1, children begin to take responsibility for each other as well as themselves, and they understand that their actions contribute to the success of the trip. In Key Stage 2, they take an active role in organising and monitoring activities, and they understand group dynamics and how peer interactions change along the duration of the trip.
Children's readiness for leaving their known surroundings or their families varies considerably, and this is why Doha College introduces trips in an age-appropriate manner. Our trips progress from a few hours at a nearby location to an overnight stay in Year 4. Children manage their bedtime routine, with guidance, and they learn that both space and time need to be shared; for example, space in a dormitory or time with their friends.
In Year 5, they spend three nights away, some of them camping out, where they learn how to do without their usual comforts – microwaves, iPads or indeed electricity. Again, group dynamics, social interaction and communication with peers and teachers evolve to a new level. In Year 6, they spend four nights away and experience many firsts. Team-building activities, challenges – physical and mental, facing their fears and being brought out of their comfort zone all expand their confidence and inner selves into something quite new and unexpected.
Most children and parents admit they become different people after each trip: children – for their new-found self-awareness, parents – for learning to let go a little more and allowing their child more self-management. The growing-up that they do in such a short time is immense and undeniable, while the only downside reported is the coming down from the high!
Here is how the most recent trip, the Year 6 Residential Trip to the United Arab Emirates, made an impact on two students that returned from it wiser and more mature:
"This trip helped me overcome homesickness and the longing to be with my family. Building new friendships with the Al Waab children and West Bay children helped me a lot. Whenever somebody, or I, felt homesick, we would just seek comfort with our new friends. I am much more confident in myself as a person. Responsibility is a big thing needed on a trip. I am sure that the whole of Year 6 learned something from sleeping in a dorm with seven other people, as you had to be careful not to lose your things as well as keeping the dorm tidy for the room inspection. Buying your own things also made you feel a lot more grown up and responsible. I loved being able to buy my own things!" (Hanna Viljoen)
"The residential trip has helped me with many of my fears. It has helped me overcome homesickness and being away from my family. I ended up making new friendships with people from the other campus. I had to bring great responsibility to the trip. It was not easy packing all my belongings, and making sure I hadn't taken anything that was not mine. We did many activities with EcoVenture: rock climbing, squid dissection, the leap of faith, canoeing, kayaking, raft building and much more. I thought this whole trip was a BLAST, and certainly one that I shall never forget." (Omar Nada)
In Secondary school, residential trips have a new meaning, nothing short of a rite-of-passage, a coming-of-age experience like no other in a young person's life. But more about these in a future blog, by teenagers so grown-up and independent that they will have written it themselves.