What a Fantastic start to our residential! We all arrived at Downes activity centre for 10.15am with the centre bathed in sunshine. After a register and setting the expectations, students were all warned about the killer badgers and squirrels! They laughed...but they were soon to find out just how greedy Mr Badger and Mrs Squirrel could be :)
Camping isn't for everyone, with some students and staff members more experienced than others. Mrs Ireland a seasoned pro, came prepared with camping gear that would rival Bear Grylls back pack. However, we then had Mr Baker (the novice) turning up with his spray tan kit and a set of hair straighteners! This will be a looooooong week for him.
The students however, all settled into camp and quickly went on the spider hunt in their tents. After a spider "cleanse" they were off for their first set of activities and lunch. Students enjoyed fire lighting, archery, rifle shooting, and pioneering. What a buzz about camp over lunch. Stories of making wooden chairs out of the natural environment and competitions about which groups could build the biggest fire with a flint.
The all of a sudden Mrs Sheehan let out an almighty screetch.....her packet of custard creams had been raided in the dining tent. A squirrel had got into the dining tent and munched on her biscuits! We were all warned about the wildlife but us city slickers from Snodland clearly didn't take the advice that seriously!
In order to tire the students out we also had a mass game of football and a go on the adventure course. Students worked in teams and did time trials across the course...although it was very competitive it was all in good spirit. They supported and cheered each other on.
Evening was drawing in and it was time for our dinner of pizza and salad. Yummy! Some students had second helpings and then proceeded to scoff into the waffles and ice-cream! After dinner it was campfire songs and showers. You cant beat a good old "buzzy bee" sing song with Mrs Ireland and Miss Crook leading the way, whilst Mr Campbell, single handed, created the most amazing campfire with a couple of twigs and a dry leaf :).
After the excitement of the day, students were in tents by 9.45 and were asleep for 10.30pm. They have been a credit to their families and the school :)
I wonder what is in store for us on day 2? More Badgers and Squirrels? The leap of faith and zip line? More sing songs and games in the tented village? Mr Baker eventually getting the campfire going without any help? I sincerely hope we have all of the above!
ps. Please pray for good weather...Thursday looks a bit wet!
** IMPORTANT APOLOGY** - from day 1
"It was felt by some (Miss Crook) that she did not get enough credit with lighting the campfire on day 1. As I only deal in facts I feel I must apologise and state for the record that Miss Crook did in fact play an important role in the lighting of the campfire on day 1 and is an integral part of the team". Mr Baker however did nothing to help. That is still very much fact!"
Editors note: the staff are worse than the children :)
Now that has been cleared up, lets get onto day 2. After the students first night of sleeping under canvas, they were up and raring to go..................at 4.30am! Mrs Clutterbuck was extremely grateful of this wake up call and greeted the students with a lovely cheery smile and a hot brew for all. Sorry I said I would only deal in facts.....but as this is a school blog I truly can't write what she was thinking behind her happy façade. She is a true professional.
After the students gorged on cereal, toast, bacon and sausage sandwiches it was time to get back to tents, tidy up their sleeping quarters getting ready for their first round of activities. At all times students are being mindful of Mr Badger and Mrs Squirrel......or so you would think! I'll get back to that later.
In the morning , students tested their resilience, conquered fears and pushed themselves to their limits. Activities such as the Leap of Faith, Aerial Trek, Climbing Wall and Rifle Shooting were all completed. The team work, camaraderie, and selfless nature of our young people shone through in droves. If one person was having problems navigating around the Aerial Trek, others would encourage. If half way up the climbing wall students froze with fear, the words and warmth of others helped melt those fears away giving them the confidence to continue. True St Kath's teamwork and it was a pleasure to witness.
Remember the rule of keeping your tent zipped up keeping any food in a sealed box? One group of boys clearly felt that Mr Squirrel needed feeding again for a second day. Upon returning from our morning activities Mr Squirrel had not only entered a tent (not fully zipped up) raiding the remnants of a sandwich in a boys bag but, to rub insult into injury, Mr Squirrel then proceeded to urinate over the boys bag for good measure. Double whammy! Not only did the boy not have his sandwich for a cheeky wee midnight feast but he also had to deal with squirrel pee and wash his bag out. The afternoon could only get better!
After lunch it was back to activities for the students and a scavenger hunt around the site. The scavenger hunt gave students the opportunity to have some freedom in their groups away from staff and search for various natural items around the wonderful setting here at Downe. This was then topped off with an fantastic dinner of pasta bake and ice cream for dessert.
The evening didn't disappoint either. There was a concern that Miss Clutterbuck may have needed medical attention after "stacking it" around the dinner tables. She fell down as easily as a Chelsea player on cup final day in the penalty box. After 10 seconds of theatricals on the ground she was back up and clearing tables ready for.......BINGO NIGHT!
This was the quietest the students have been all week. Mrs White created bingo cards and even brought her bingo balls to the table. Once it was eyes down the children were transfixed and after allot of legs elevens and two fat ladies later the bingo was done. Please don't blame us if at Xmas, students ask for memberships to Gala Bingo.
After bingo Miss Crook and Mrs Ireland, got the campfire roaring, I completed all the administrative tasks, Mrs White cleared the site, Mrs Clutterbuck organised the evening showers, Mrs Sheehan did the tea run and Mr Baker....ermmm...ehh...Mr Baker.....emmmmmmmmm...anyway, day two was great and the kids were a credit to you all back home. Many fears conquered and loads of new friendships made. Roll on day 3!
Ok, so through the power of social media, the feedback on the blog has been that Mr Baker has had a bit of a rough time and that I need to be more positive about him and be more sensitive towards his needs. I must stress that I will give credit where credit is due , however having listened, I will ensure I praise Mr Baker where appropriate :)
So.....Day 3...the busiest day of the week so far. The students had a fantastic sleep and we were woken up with beautiful sunshine and the smell of warm croissants and pain au chocolat. These were lovingly dished out by our resident "dish", Mr Baker :) . After the Parisian style breakfast we sang a big happy birthday to one of our students who was 11. He was thoroughly embarrassed. After the sing song the students were back on activities such as backwards cooking, aerial trek, archery, leap of faith, zip wire and rifle shooting. Once again the determination and teamwork shown from our students was first class. The staff at the centre even highlighted how great our kids have been with their never say die attitude and support for each other. We were so proud of them all.
This determined attitude is fostered by brilliant staff like Miss Crook who, It has to be said it theeeeeee most competitive person I have ever met. Even on the leap of faith she was doing time trials with me to see who could get to the top first. Due to an old gymnastics injury and an overly tight pair of trousers, I didn't have the flexibility to beat her on this challenge however there was archery of which she was well and truly beaten in.........Merida she aint! Obviously if Mr Baker had taken part his natural athleticism would have overshadowed our efforts and he would have claimed victory. The stars though were without doubt the students, they showed us all up and smashed it.
During our time on activities a birthday cake and balloons were delivered by a students parents for over lunch. The Scout staff placed the cake (fully boxed) and balloons in the dining tent and tied the tent flaps back up.......Mr Squirrel was watching! Upon finishing our morning activities we came back up for lunch and saw a burst balloon, and 10% of the birthday cake already eaten. Greedy Mr Squirrel got in their first! At least today he didn't feel the need to urinate over his lunch this time. After eating lunch and chasing squirrels it was back onto our activities.
Back in camp after the afternoons activities we had arguably the best dinner of the week so far of sausage, mash, peas and gravy. This was topped off with jelly and ice cream. The kids needed this meal as they needed brain food for the nights entertainment of which was Miss Clutterbucks mega quiz! It consisted of rounds such as a music round, dingbats and Disney round. The kids did great and the staff...well the staff blatantly cheated as they had access to their phones so they googled most of the answers! There were a few classic answers to some of the questions of which will be revealed later.
After the quiz Miss Crook had one eye on the fire and had actually set the ground work for making a massive fire earlier in the day. She cleverly flirted with one of the scout leaders to obtain free fire lighting equipment. She got her hands on matches, fire lighters and Vaseline (she tells us it acts as a fuel for the fire...well that's what the scout leader said to her). Whilst the ever diligent Mr Baker and Miss Clutterbuck did the shower run, Mrs Sheehan, Mrs White and Mrs Ireland cleared and tidied up from dinner and I delegated :), Miss Crook set off to work on the campfire. In the end she used most of her equipment but misplaced the Vaseline. She blamed it on Mr Squirrel. The misplaced Vaseline was overshadowed by the amazing fire and marshmallow toasting done by the kids.
Once again they were a credit to you all back home. An absolute belter of a day. It was in bed by 10 after being pre warned about the conditions forecasted for over night. Thunder and lightening. 1am this morning saw the biggest thunderstorm seen in these parts for years. Luckily I had Mr Baker keeping me safe in my tent...and mr squirrel had randomly left some missing fire lighting equipment next to our sleeping bags....very random indeed. We can use it for tomorrows fire.
Even though it poured overnight, spirits were still high and we were all looking forward to the next mornings adventures.
Finally just wanted to share some classic student comments from today:
During backwards cooking:
Scout Staff: "Hi I'm Karen from Mexico...lovely to see you all"
Student: "Mexico eh.....so......have you ever watched TV then....do you have a TV?"
St kath's staff: slowly wanted to curl up in a tight ball and disappear down a large hole
Scout Staff: " brilliant , now you have finished cooking you can eat up"
Student: "yeyyyy bona bateet guys"
Student responding to previous student: "OMG you cant even say it right its bon apetite" ....in a very non French, kent accent"
St Kaths Staff: on the ground in stiches wondering where our two Del Boy Trotters came from.
Mrs Clutterbuck: "What instrument is used to measure angles in geometry?"
Student: "a Ukulele"
All St Kath's Staff: silent, staring at the ground shaking heads thinking that this boy has only just sat his maths SATS last week.
On a more positive note two of our students took it upon themselves today to do a regular litter pick around the tented village in order to support sustainability and help protect the wildlife. I will make a point of calling home to both sets of parents and get a special award handed to the two girls in the first rewards assembly back.
Thank you for taking your time to read the blog. Bring on the rain!
Day 4 (Wet, wet , wet)
OK, I have to admit, I am typing this up after a mug of mocha (made by Miss Crook, thank you Miss Crook), and a can of Red Bull. The change of weather has brought its challenges, but St Kath's are made of strong stuff and we kept calm and carried on!
As previously mentioned last night we witnessed a spectacular thunder storm in our tents. Fortunately for the kids they were in the nice new tents bought by the Scouts (we are the first group to use them) which are lightening proof...Mr Baker and myself however were in the 1970s canvas tent pitched under the largest tree on site with a metal pole propping up the central canopy. We did however, survive the night as did the kids.....Mrs Sheehan, Mrs White and Mrs Ireland however had a little more difficulty. Mrs Ireland woke up to a couple of centimetres of water at her head. She was literally chocking on a trout as she awoke from her slumber. The day was then taken up thinking of different ways to dry bedding in the wettest of conditions. It's 21:45 as I type this and the blankets are still damp....looks like it will be a long night around the campfire...or all into the one staff tent.....actually no that won't work...it will be a long night around the campfire for Mrs Sheehan, Mrs White and Mrs Ireland.
Anyway I digress. Today was wet but it was allot of fun. The kids had hot breakfast wraps at 8am and then off for activities. We did rocket launching, frisbee golf, rifle shooting, all before lunch. Coming back into the tented village at lunch we feared the worse. What would we find? Would Mr Squirrel have left a surprise for us? The students were in anticipation........but Mr Squirrel was nowhere to be seen. No bags tampered with....no food devoured...no sign of any squirrel wee. How can this be? Then that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach starts to arise and the thought entered our heads.......were our kids really that bad at rifle shooting and missed their target board that much? Has Fortnite not taught them anything about accuracy? Can an air rifle really go that far? We all live in hope that Mr Squirrel is back tomorrow so we can all say farewell before we head back home.
The final activity of the day was one that the staff had the most concern over. It was Orienteering. Students got into their teams were given an OS style map and told to find the various markers. Was this going to be too boring? Were they going to tire out too easily as it's the last full day? The answer was a resounding "NO". They lapped it up. Our kids were like crack special forces teams using their map skills, sense of direction and adventure to get as many markers as possible over a very very large area with tricky terrain. The sense of competition between the teams was fantastic but all in good nature. It was by far the most enjoyable session of the day.
After Orienteering it was back to camp for Fajitas, wedges and corn on the cob. This was finished off with a lovely chocolate fudge cake. Mrs White cracked open the bingo balls again and Mrs Ireland was desperately getting the fire started still thinking about her wet blankets. It was like a well oiled machine. As I finish off this blog the students are all in their tents settling down. The tented village behind us with another group however, are not so calm......#proudteachermoments.
Tomorrow is home time. It will be sad to go, however the memories and laughs we have all had with the kids has been first class and will stay with the me and the staff for a long long time. The student are a pure credit to you all. The success of this trip however is also down to the amazing staff I have had the pleasure of working with and living with this week. They have given up their week, away from their own family and friends, to be with the kids. They have never grumbled or moaned about the lack of sleep and have been so caring and considerate to the students treating them as if they were their own. A class act.
Right, I'm now off for a KitKat chunky and a cup of tea...ready for Mr Bakers campfire stories of when he used to be a good footballer.
Home time tomorrow.
In around 2 hours we will all be leaving Downe. Even though we are all shattered we will miss this place. Even though Mr Squirel and Mrs Badger played mind games with us; even though we had the challenge of an electrical storm; even though we were up every morning before 6am, even though I had to sleep in the same tent as Mr Baker....the experience will stay with us all u for a very long time and we have allot of funny stories and memories to tell once we are back home.
Today the students had pancakes with blueberries and syrup for breakfast. Proper 5 star hotel breakfast. Then they all got clearing camp, showing a great respect for the environment and for the scout staff on site, ensuring they had minimal clean up once we have departed. This mornings activities didn't disappoint. Grass sledging, Go Karts and jump mats. I understand why grass sledging was kept until the final day, as it was most definitely the most dangerous...but most fun! Very steep grass hill.....bushes at either side...sledges with tank track wheels....and very very competitive students and staff. Helmets were obviously worn at all times! Well...... there were epic fails on this activity. Miss Clutterbuck taking out any student in her way down the track....Mr Baker breaking a sledge and Miss Crook going head first into a wall of tires.
*please note: no students or staff were hurt in each of these scenarios. Only sore sides from laughing so much,
The go kart track got a battering as well with budding Lewis Hamilton's tearing round the track at whopping speeds of 2 mph.....it was peddle power and at this stage of the week I think the kids were done in!
So as I type this at the reception area the group are back at camp tucking into their lunch. We will then do a final perimeter search for litter and property, then we will get all students to walk down to reception to either be picked up or to get into the buses to come home.
Lastly I want to say thank you to the staff for their hard work and determination this week and to you for checking the blog and bringing up such fantastic children. They were great and we are very proud of them.
Have a great half term, stay safe and see you all refreshed for the final half term of the year.