For the third year, students in Year 10 at Nobel International School Algarve completed the Journey of Discovery – an adventure that is fast becoming a rite of passage at the school in Lagoa.
Aged just 14 and 15, many of these students had never hiked, trekked or camped before – or spent time away from digital devices. Led by Head of Adventure and Geography teacher Matt Harris and Head of School Mike Farrer, the group of 32 teenagers completed the 100km trek from Porches to Fóia, Monchique, and back.
On this journey, a mental and physical challenge, the average student walked more than 200,000 steps. The group learnt to cook on stoves and developed their competence in camp craft skills, some coming from a complete beginner level. They forged rivers, toasted marshmallow and Nutella cookie sandwiches on the barbecue and cooked spaghetti bolognaise!
Most importantly, many overcame some of their worst fears, whether that was a week without their parents, their phone, TV, solitude, walking 100km, sore feet and muscles. During the penultimate day, the entire group had four hours of complete solitude, when they each read a letter written by their parents and had the chance to respond.
Group leader Matt Harris said: “Each year group handles the journey differently because of the different relationships and dynamics and this year I would say that the biggest part of the journey was how we saw the students manage to communicate with each other on a much deeper level with people that they had previously never spoken to. The absence of mobile phones had a profound effect on them all that was very visible to everyone. What we were hearing was students saying how much they were enjoying just spending time running around with friends, skimming stones … things they hadn’t done since they were little children.”
Head of School Mike Farrer said: “This particular trip is planned carefully to be almost physically and mentally impossible, and we encourage the whole form group to go; many of whom might not be keen on this kind of challenge and many who have very little experience, so you can’t go to that place, near the impossible, without finding things out about yourself. Children come back determined, motivated, clearer about their future ideas and plans – we see immediate positive change. It is also a huge opportunity for me, as the Head of School, to get to know some of the students on a much deeper level, to really connect with them, which is impossible in the normal day-to-day running of the school, and I hope that it sends a signal to them and to their parents of how much I respect them for completing the challenge.”