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An Annual Highlight

Ask any adult about their school days and among their golden memories will surely be a story or description taken from a school residential. Those lucky enough to have been part of a school trip where an overnight stay is involved will recall the thrill of the giant sleepover with a whole class full, if not year group, of friends. Every year we make these memories possible by providing an opportunity to savour the first school residential for our young but able Year 2s.

I keenly remember my first Guide Camp and pictured it in the middle of some deep countryside far, far away from home to be shocked many years later when driving past it on the A3 only to discover it was held in nearby Cobham! The same can be said for our school residential for we feel transported many miles away, with the reality being that we are safely tucked away nearby at the foot of Box Hill at the beautiful Juniper Hall Field Study Centre.

Every year I am in awe of our young students who have the capacity to seize every opportunity with an energetic determination that would leave an adult exhausted. The timetable is varied and enticing starting with an orienteering course that, when you are 6 or 7 must be completed at running pace! Having used your map to collect letters from around the stunning grounds, an anagram must be solved by the first team back in order to win first place. The children were so engrossed in the activity that winning became irrelevant as every team charged around working together in the sunshine to get the job done.

Investigating camouflage, invertebrate hunting in the woods and then across into the fields, small mammal trap preparation then discovery, pond dipping and effective shelter building up in the higher woods are just a few of the opportunities on offer all of them partaken by every child with courage, joy and an expectation to succeed. When do we loose that magical optimism? First the sun and then the rain but you would not have known the difference as it is just as easy to run in trainers and T-shirts as it is to run in wellies and waterproofs! Who knew?!

It is very good for my soul to be part of this wonderful annual event. I regain my excitement and energy levels as the infectious spirit from the children spreads from adult to adult. Pretty soon we are all as excited as each other to have caught a Field Mouse and a Vole and we are not just following but running ahead to find new areas of the wood with which to find even better long branches to improve the Team’s den! As for the campfire songs, actions and marshmallows to toast, it all seems over too quickly  and we find a warm glow in our hearts from enthusiastic participation perhaps helped by the hot chocolate.

Either way when the second day is over and it is time to say goodbye we look with admiration at each other and a sense of gratitude for this opportunity. The children have once again demonstrated terrific resilience and enthusiasm and have shone in each activity showing leadership skills as well as great collaboration.  The staff have impressed me too with their fabulous attitude and participation and although all parties know that they will sleep well tonight we also know that we have taken part in something very special and made some incredible memories to treasure.

Annie Thackray