BIBA G5 Field Trip | Surviving what, Exactly
Surviving what, Exactly
“Survival Island” a student pauses before asking, “do we have to kill animals and cook them for food?”
Most likely slapping the palm of my right hand on my forehand whilst leaning my head forward & closing my eyes at the same time, “I am vegan at home & vegetarian while out and about in the world, so how exactly how do you imagine I would survive on this trip let alone lead it?”
“Survival Island … Well my mum & dad sent me to military training over the summer, so I’m alright. I exercised a lot. I mean, I guess I have a lot of gear like a big knife. It’s so cool! I guess I could sleep outside in my sleeping bag & kill all of the bugs that try to crawl on me. I would like it if we get to make a really, really big fire …”
Actually most conversations I have prior to the grade five overnight trip end up veering towards this territory when I introduce it, some in spirit of good fun and others delivered with the seriousness of a presidential address. In reality, there is little to survive expect the heat, pollution and an occasional insect bite.
It is not an island either. In fact, the view from a watchtower on the highest point of the grounds allows for magnificent views of a broken down section of the Mu Tian Yu Great Wall, glimpses of the facilities used for the APEC Conference and the sparkling surface of Yanqi Lake. It is a land-locked and pleasant environment to spend a few days and a night in Beijing Municipality’s Huairou District.
A name with ‘survival’ in it might ring more true because this trip has been designed to highlight how individuals and groups (each student placed into one of five houses) experience and resolve conflict.
On the first day and night, teams of students lead by the faculty and staff completed a series of challenges; sometimes in a rotation and often times in full view of anyone observing. Most students felt the tosses and turns of individual wants versus the group’s needs. For example, a student wanted to help her group succeed by walking a short distance on giant sandals; however, she needed to take on the responsibility of coaching with instructions and cadence.
In the early morning on the second day, teams were challenged with using cards as a substitute for currency to buy materials in an auction to build an egg-catcher. (The number of cards distributed to each team depended on the exchange rate of the country chosen relative to the dollar.) The egg-catcher is simply a tool designed to safely catch a hard-boiled egg from a height without any visible damage to the shell once it is dropped. Some teams ended up with quite a few supplies and a few teams ended up with whatever they could buy with a few measly dollars or anything they could scrounge that was discarded by other teams. Students had to work out what was causing the problem(s) with how to overcome them through a series of solutions.
Immediately after the auction, teams broke apart into two groups: one group designing and building the egg-catcher with another group springing up a hillside through a series of obstacles to retrieve the egg to be used for the ‘drop’. Both teams had to commit to agreed upon jobs. Everyone on each team had to commit to success. Each member had to compromise by putting the team first before themselves; difficult for adults and for pre-adolescent students alike. No matter how big or how small, the success of the team depended on the contribution(s) of each and every member. In the end, four out of five teams succeeded in catching their egg!
Once back at school on the second day and throughout the week immediately following the trip, students were guided through a set of connected and integrated lessons with an interactive read-aloud with If the World Were a Village, plenary discussions to sort through wants versus needs and points of conflict for the team with ways the problem(s) were resolved and ample time for a written reflection on how to apply these lessons in our world.
Some entry points for this written reflection were to examine conflict and cooperation in societies and/or nations through nationalities, languages, ages, religions or food. Or, to explain how societies and/or nations interact with one another (e.g., trade, exchanges, etc.) through air and water, school and work, money and possessions or energy.
Although we all celebrated with a well-deserved day off from school for the mid-autumn holiday, the greatest reward was hearing, “Could we please do that again?” after returning back to school.
“Survival Island” You are provided a few simple tools and pointed in the direction of rugged terrain for an unforgettable overnight experience …”
Adapted from Mr. Andrew Wetzel’s original text