Earlier this week I spent a day working as a volunteer in the Education Department at The Boxmoor Trust, based in Hemel Hempstead. I usually am asked to help with groups of small children but this time our group of students were 60 trainee childcare workers from the local college aged between 16 and 17. I arrived in my walking boots and sensible trousers, and they arrived in their mini skirts, leggings and Ugg boots. Accompanied by typical teenage surly expressions. They really couldn’t see the point of spending a day in the woods. What about mobile phone reception? Where could they reapply their make-up? When could they stop for a cigarette?
The students were split into three groups, each group to do three activities during the course of the day. My task for the day was to play hide-and-seek. The girls, naturally saw no purpose in playing silly games. Until we started. It wasn’t long before the concept that a teenage girl in a pink hoodie could vanish in a woodland in under ten seconds began to have an effect. If they could disappear that quickly and their friends couldn’t hunt them out, how quickly could a small child disappear, and how long would it take to find them? Suddenly they could see the point of the game, only it wasn’t really a game after all, it was a valuable educational exercise with a clear purpose and a clear outcome. By the end of the day the animosity of the early morning had gone and the majority of the students were throwing themselves into the activities with gusto. There were ripped leggings and a lost mobile phone. The girls were muddy and tired. But valuable lessons had been learned, and above all, education had been fun.