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Take a Long Hike

Planning for the long term

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to consider ways in which to approach the long haul through to next July (SEAL theme: Motivation).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to adapt the introduction according to the school’s involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. If the school is involved in the scheme, choose two or three participants to interview. If the school is not involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, you may wish to research details of local organizations who offer the scheme.


  1. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has been in existence for more than 60 years. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a challenge scheme aimed at those aged 14 and over. There are three levels to the award - Bronze, Silver and Gold - and you can choose to complete one, two or all three of these levels. Each level comprises opportunities to volunteer, physical challenges, learning new skills and an expedition. To earn the Gold Award, it is also necessary to participate in a five-day residential activity. Involvement in the scheme has proved to be a life-changing experience for many young people.

    If possible, invite two or three students who have participated in the DofE to talk about their experiences, including the best and worst times they had, the gains they made and the commitment that was required.

  2. The DofE programme is not something that you can complete in a day, or even in a weekend. It is a long-term commitment, giving you the opportunity to demonstrate planning, decision-making and stamina. Maybe it is best summed up in the expedition. This can be a multi-day hike, canoe trip, sail, horse trek or any self-propelled mode of transport that you choose.

    - First, it is necessary to plan your route, with stopping places and campsites.
    - Second, you must carefully choose what to take with you. It may seem sensible to pack for every eventuality, but a rucksack that feels bearable for the first mile can soon weigh down on your shoulders and hips. Participants have been known to discard unnecessary luxuries at regular intervals simply to lighten the load.
    - Third, it is necessary to create a good team because you will not be travelling alone. Any team needs a variety of skills, so you might choose members who can lead, encourage or set the right pace, and members who can pitch the tent or cook a tasty meal.
    - Most of all, it is important that everyone is committed to completing the task. There is little to be gained by doing only part of the scheme. Certainly, the true satisfaction comes from reaching the end, having faced the ups and downs and overcome them all.

Time for reflection

Doesn’t next July seem a long time away? We all need to travel through the autumn term, Christmas, the spring term, Easter and finally, the frustrating summer term, when the sun always seems to shine from Monday to Friday, but goes behind the clouds at the weekend! The school year is a long haul, just like an expedition, so let’s treat it in a similar way.

First, planning: what is our destination this school year? For some of us, it’s the successful completion of GCSEs or A levels. Others may have objectives in terms of sport, performance, public recognition or other qualifications. If we don’t have a destination in mind, it’s rather like starting an expedition without knowing in which direction to go. We will probably end up going in circles and reaching the end of the school year with no achievements to show for the time and energy that we spent. Destinations need not be a universal thing such as aiming for good exam results. There might be something very specific and personal to us, even something that we would rather not tell other people. But let’s have something in mind, something to aim for, something that we hope to achieve. Let’s also remember that this isn’t a non-stop ultra-marathon; we need to plan in times when we take a break, too.

Second, what will we take with us? When Jesus sent out his disciples on an expedition, he pared things down to the bare minimum: no money, no rucksack, no spare clothing . . . and even no stopping to talk to anyone on the road. Jesus was encouraging his disciples to depend on the good nature of the people in the villages they reached each evening. For our expedition through the year, it is advisable to be a little more pragmatic. What is essential equipment for us to reach our destination? This may be in terms of access to facilities, to the expertise of others or to a space where we can study or practise. Time will also be important. It may be necessary to put some other activities on hold for a while, just like leaving some luxuries out of the rucksack. When packing a rucksack, the advice is to put the items that you need most - like food, drink and an emergency kit - in an easily accessible place. So, get yourself organized for the year!

Finally, gather people around you who will help and support you - don’t try to go it alone. Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs. They could encourage one another when they felt down. They could discuss decisions that needed to be made or dilemmas that had to be faced. So, let’s find a ‘study buddy’, talk to our friends and ask people to encourage us. Hopefully, we can all be good for each other.

Here we are at the start of the year. Let’s all see what we can achieve by the end of the expedition.

Dear God,
Thank you for the challenges and opportunities of a new school year.
Please remind us of our aims, hopes and dreams when we drift off track.
Please help us to remain focused on our destinations.
May we all successfully complete the expedition.

Publication date: September 2018   (Vol.20 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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