The Flexible Curriculum – how do you pack for the journey ahead?

The Flexible Curriculum – how do you pack for the journey ahead?

This is an abstract I had written for @CharteredCollege for a possible article in their Impact magazine with Curriculum as the central theme.

Abstract for Impact magazine

As both a partitioner in adventure activities and a teacher in the BTEC Public Services qualification I have been influenced in the curriculum devised by Kurt Hahn in the 1930’s which is still used in Gordonstoun the school he founded [1]. He believed that students learn through experience rather than simple instruction and outdoor education was an essential part of Hahn’s curriculum. BTEC introduced their Public Services qualification in September 1990 and to the present there has always been a unit involving expedition skills [2]. This has provided an opportunity for Hahn’s curriculum to be accessed on a wider scale. Currently learners undertake at least two expeditions within challenging outdoor environments. However, what approaches determine this curriculum at subject level? For me I use the analogy for what essential equipment would I pack for an expedition to a challenging outdoor environment. I would need to ensure I select the lightest clothing and equipment to not be burden by excessive weight. In the back of my mind would also be do I include extras to allow for a margin of safety just in case things go wrong. Therefore, the dilemma for missing out what could be essential is mirrored in both a curriculum perspective and in an outdoor environment partitioner one. So there needs to be a flexible approach to the curriculum to meet the challenges arising on the journey.

Their reply:

“Following careful consideration by the editorial board, I’m sorry to let you know that we are unable to accept your submission this time.

Although your abstract is interesting and engaging, it has a very specific remit, and with the number of submissions we have received for this issue, we can unfortunately only accept those that have a wider application across the curriculum.  

We thank you for your interest in writing for Impact, and certainly hope you choose to submit another abstract for future issues.”

After this feedback I decided to continue and do more research as I personally thought that this idea was worth pursuing.

Definitions for analogy

A few definitions for analogy [3]:

  • A comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification.
  • A thing that is comparable to something else in significant respects: works of art were seen as an analogy for works of nature.
  • In logic – a process of arguing from similarity in known respects to similarity in other respects.

Introduction: The Flexible Curriculum – packing for the journey ahead

Knowing that a curriculum is a course of study in an educational environment and one needs the essentials in order to complete whatever requirements are needed. Can these essentials be compared with what is needed when planning a journey in a challenging outdoor environment? A curriculum for a short course lasting a term might have to cover the same content as a unit lasting an academic year but not necessarily in the same depth. If I go for a short five miles countryside walk lasting two and half hours I might need to pack the same items for a day long twenty miles adventure walk. However, for the short walk I might check the weather forecast before I embark on my journey to be sure I really don’t need to pack my waterproof clothing. Underpinning these two statements is that a flexible approach is required in order to have successful outcomes in both academic and expedition environments.

The Flexible Curriculum 3b JPEG

The essentials are: protection; nutrition and hydration; safety and navigation. In the table above it shows the relationship each essential has with both context for a curriculum and packing for an expedition.

The Curriculum for England, Wales and Northern Ireland not only provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers develop exciting and stimulating lessons but also a recognition that learning in and about a natural environment contributes to a varied and enriching curriculum.

“Giving children the opportunity to discover, learn about and experience the natural world is hugely important – it can help create a sense of belonging rooted in their local environment, enhancing their health, wellbeing and educational outcomes.” Transforming Outdoor Learning in Schools, Lessons from the Natural Connections Project. 2016 [4]

Summary

As can be seen the Curriculum for England, Wales and Northern Ireland certainly supports a model for a flexible curriculum recognising both parts played within academic and expedition environments. Also if we consider linking the essentials as mentioned above we will know what to pack for the journey ahead.

References

http://www.gordonstoun.org.uk/unique-curriculum [1] accessed 10th June 2018

https://qualifications.pearson.com/content/dam/pdf/BTEC-Nationals/Public-Services/2010/Specification/Unit_9_Outdoor_and_Adventurous_Expeditions.pdf [2] accessed 10th June 2018

Apple Dictionary [3] accessed: 28th June 2018

https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/assets/000/002/837/LOST_WORDS_Explorers-Guide_original.pdf?1515059070 [4] accessed 30th June 2018

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Essential Endurance Walking Skills: What to Carry? An update May 2018

Essential Endurance Walking Skills: What to Carry? An update May 2018

This is basically an update of an article I wrote back in May 2015 just before I started the 75 miles National Forest Way. In that year I completed 40.75 miles of the route ending at Ticknall with 34.25 miles still to complete before the finish. Three years have now passed by but I was reignited with the idea of completing this route whilst on recent local walk. A case of wanting to explore different footpaths. After an evening planning the next day found me back at Ticknall to walk the 13.25 miles to Sence Valley. An amazing walk and 13.25 miles towards my Country Walking magazine’s #walk1000miles in 2018 challenge. Now I have only 21 miles from Sence Valley to Beacon Hill in Leicestershire to complete the National Forest Way. Hopefully I can complete this route before this year is out and perhaps I will accomplish this distance in one go as an endurance walk. 

In endurance walking it is necessary to keep weight down to a minimum to aid enjoyment. Selecting equipment needs thought as when conditions dictate it maybe that you are carrying and not wearing items of clothing. Here you need to be aware that the clothing you use is not only light in weight but is compact and can be easily compressed to reduce volume when packed. Please note that the following observations are based on an endurance walk undertaken from late spring to early autumn in a low level environment close to human habitation over terrain that consists of public rights of way, paths and tracks.

Gear for edurance walks 2018 1

Equipment for an endurance walk – some are old, some are new, none are borrowed and most are blue

Rucksack

The rucksack is the container for your ‘life support system’ during the trek and this is the starting point to keep weight down. Therefore, the pack does not need to be made from rock proof material or require extras like ice-ax fittings, attachment points for crampons and automatic cup holders! All these add unnecessary weight. One item of equipment I haven’t changed since May 2015 is the Black Diamond RPM rucksack. This is my go to pack for endurance walks, and indeed short rambles, in low level terrain due to being an uncomplicated design, comfortable to carry, light in weight and with a capacity of 26 litres. The latter feature is important as it limits the volume and weight I carry. Access to the main body of this pack is via a zipped lid and inside is a bladder pouch holder and a front compartment. The lid has a zipped outside pocket and a zipped inside one which includes a clip to hold your keys etc… On the exterior are two mesh pockets each capable of holding a 600ml drinks bottle plus a lunch bar. The volume of the pack can be adjusted by an external draw cord on its front face which ensures everything loaded is held tight and close to your back. 

Inside the pack – clothing

Waterproof Jacket & Trousers

My latest waterproof jacket is a Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic waterproof jacket. I bought this to replace my leaking Marmot Nano AS jacket. This is again a lightweight waterproof jacket that has a chest pocket to hold my glasses when it rains hard and provides storage for my iPhone SE. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a volume adjuster for the hood which can easily accommodate a full face F1 drivers helmet if the need arises! When reading the information on the hang tag before buying I found out this jacket was made from a fabulous sounding material called Dry.Q. This, they state, is a four-way all over stretch fabric that boasts excellent performance in wet conditions. Since using this jacket I have found it provides a comfortable and effective barrier to the wind and rain with the under sleeve zips allowing ventilation when needed. In contrast the oldest item of clothing I am still using is a pair of Rohan overtrousers. I bought these maybe 25 plus years ago and Rohan’s Waterlight H2P fabric still does the business. Although they are lined they are lightweight and fold up compactly.

Warm jacket/windproof jacket

The Marmot Ether Driclime Hoody was a jacket that I felt was an ideal replacement for my Marmot Driclime Jacket until I found out that it wasn’t available in the UK. Then suddenly I found it in a local mega camping store with a high price tag! Returning a few months later it was in a sale with a third knocked off the original price and after purchase another garment found its way into my rucksack. Just like my original Driclime Jacket the Ether Driclime Hoody is a most effective and efficient garment providing warmth and an element of wind resistance in a lightweight and compact package. The latter two points being equally important when carrying the item. I have found the hood extremely useful and the full length zip provides ease in getting the garment on and off as the need and conditions require. It also has three very useful pockets all with zips which comprise of two base and one chest pocket all accessed from the outside.  The outer is wind resistant nylon and the inner is a lightweight polyester fleece. Unlike my original Driclime jacket the Driclime hoody doesn’t look out of place walking through civilisation which can happen frequently on the National Forest Way. At times conditions can just be windy without the need for a jacket with thermal properties and my Patagonia lightweight jacket fits the need perfectly. It doesn’t have a hood but I have never seen the need for one on a jacket of this type and it only has a chest pocket. With any ultra lightweight design there will be compromises but I have found this jacket to be a very useful layer. 

Hat & Gloves

In weather that is forecast to be changeable, which is most of the time in England, I take a warm hat and gloves. These don’t need to be full on mountaineering styles but lightweight and effective ones. My warm hat dates from the last century and is made by Patagonia from their stretch Syncilla fabric whilst my gloves are a similar vintage with thermal properties and are extremely lightweight. A recently bought Patagonia Roger That Hat baseball cap provides useful protection when the sun decides to come out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A close-up of the contents of the first aid kit together with the torch and compass laid out on the Sitz mat

Inside the pack – other necessities

First Aid Kit

The usual stuff: assorted plasters, antiseptic wipes, pain killers and Compeed blister plasters (I needed these on my first National Forest Way walk) are contained in a fold out pouch. Included in this pouch is a SwissCard due to having a pair of tweezers and a neat pair of scissors along with a tooth pick and nail file!  An additional item from my original article is a Lifesystems Safecard Tick remover card. I decided to include one after ticks and Lyme disease were discussed on a ramble I went on last April. From late spring to early autumn the sun may be out and it is essential to take sun cream. On recommendation from my daughter, who is a snowboarder, I am taking Piz Buin Mountain Suncream with a 50+ SPF! This provides protection not only from the sun but also cold, wind and high altitudes! The latter not being a problem along the National Forest Way.

Torch

An LED Lenser P5E one AA cell torch is included in my pack. No need for a spare bulb  with this torch and I will check the battery before going out. It also has a handy lanyard to secure to the outside of the pack just in case navigation becomes a night activity and I need quick access to a light source.

These essentials, the first aid kit and torch, are kept together in a Lowe Alpine U-shaped mesh bag and then placed in a waterproof bag.

Sit (Sitz) mat

A small piece of closed-cell foam is carried to ensure that when I need to sit down to eat or enjoy the view I can in relative comfort.

Nutrition

I will carry two 600ml plastic bottles of diluted orange drink for liquid whilst food will consist of a variety of flap jacks, fruit, snack bars and dried fruit. There is a possibility that these can be supplemented along the National Forest Way as the route passes through many villages that have shops and some have a pub but don’t count on them being open at the same time you pass through.

Spares

On a low level walk like this carrying spares is not really necessary. Also it is light until late and the essence is to keep moving at a reasonable pace hence not taking the kitchen sink! However, space will be found for a length of paracord which has a multitude of uses including make-do laces.

Keeping it all Dry

Plastic bags will ensure everything is kept dry.

Navigation Aids

Route Plans

I have downloaded the route guides from: http://www.nationalforestway.co.uk/downloads/ and have laminated them to protect them from the elements.

Maps

The relevant Ordnance Survey Explorer 1:25,000 scale maps will be carried and used depending on the stage I am walking: 233, 245 & 246. 

Compass

A Silva Expedition compass will be taken along as a ‘just in case’. On my recent National Forest Way walk I did need this to check the direction I was going in as in some cases the  route had changed since the brochures I was using were printed. Plus I needed it on a path just before I entered Ashby as a new housing estate diverted the route.

GPS Receiver

I have one but as yet still debating whether it is worth carrying in this kind of environment. OK it doesn’t weigh much but every kg counts in this game.

iPhone SE

Ordnance Survey digital maps can be accessed through OS Online and a SMART phone is a multi-use device. My main use is as a camera to record my ventures but I can send images and updates of my walk to my wife.

I hope you have found this helpful and I welcome comments.

Link to my original article published May 2015:

https://chrisnavigator.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/essential-endurance-walking-skills-what-to-carry/

 

The Challenge – preparation and training

The Challenge – preparation and training

Next Saturday sees me on the starting line of the Seagrave Wolds 16 mile Challenge event. Preparation is thinking what to wear and carry for the walk and training means getting out of the chair and heading outdoors! Today #aussieEd on Twitter asked how do you unwind and relax? My reply was to read (maps), write (Blogs) and walk. Walk! Hey what am I doing reading tweets I need to head outside and do more training. Whilst preparing for the walk I selected clothing that I have worn before on previous Seagrave Wolds challenges and to trial stuff that I have bought since last year’s event. For both  items old and new this walk was a shake down to check or recheck that it works. Also I used experiences from walks I did during this summer especially the challenge events which I took part in. These were the 26 mile Dovedale Dipper and the 54 miles Three Forests Way. The former I completed and the latter I made it to 49 miles but then retired. Major issues for both events were footwear and coping with the heat. However, as the Seagrave Wolds Challenge is in early November the heat issue is unlikely. Footwear I sorted for the Three Forests Way but then underfoot conditions were hard and firm but for the Seagrave Wolds Challenge it will likely be wet and muddy. So taking all this into consideration I made my selection, put it on and stepped outside. Here is the run down on the performance on each item used today with a bit of history attached.

Troll Omni lightweight trousers

My go to trousers for walking built in North Wales from fabric made in Sweden.  Found them growing wild at Joe Brown’s Capel Curig shop. These are lightweight as they don’t have any zips and only have three pockets. The material they are made from is windproof, water resistant, breathable and durable. They have an elasticated waist with an integral belt, are a simple pull-on design and feature a gusseted crotch for freedom of movement. For me they are time tested as I have used them for many years and I have worn them for the last five Seagrave Wolds Challenge walks. Today they performed as usual in the changing conditions and even when it rained I didn’t feel I needed overtrousers.

Eddie Bauer lightweight 1/4 zip fleece

The oldest piece of kit I wore today which I bought around 20 years ago. Still in fabulous condition this item of clothing is made from lightweight Polartec fleece which I use predominately from November to February for technical walks. This is superb addition for a layering system as it is low bulk and flexible. Two lower pockets are well placed to warm hands. One of my few mail order purchases and obtained direct from Eddie Bauer when they had a base in the UK. Like the Omni trousers I have worn this on the five previous Seagrave Wolds Challenge walks. Provided effective warmth in today’s temperatures which averaged 5 degrees Centigrade.

Mountain Hardwear technical T-Shirt

Ideal for wearing under the Eddie Bauer fleece this T-Shirt is made from a technical fabric which has wicking properties. Found in the Rock Bottom department at Cotswold Camping a few years ago. Worked well today in the changing conditions encountered.

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic waterproof jacket

There are times when one is wandering around a gear store, in this case Ultimate Outdoors, looking for an item of gear one really needs but coming out with something one didn’t! Such was this case when I didn’t really need a new waterproof jacket but it was the half price that caught my eye. Plus of course this jacket was made from a fabulous sounding material Dry.Q. Reading the information on the hang tag I found out this is a four-way all over stretch fabric that boasts excellent performance in wet conditions. Made with a new fabric and half the price how could I resist? I couldn’t so I bought it. However, I did find sorting the hood out for a neat fit slightly time consuming whilst on my first outing with this jacket. So back home I made sure that I did tweak it to fit perfectly so all would be OK next time out. An essential for me when selecting a waterproof jacket is to have a chest pocket to store my glasses when it rains hard. This jacket has this and it is also a perfect storage solution when I take out my iPhone SE. Today it was worn throughout the walk and provided a comfortable and effective barrier to the wind and later the rain. The under sleeve zips allowed ventilation when needed.

Brooks Ghost 7 training shoes

brooks-ghost-7-training-shoes

Brooks Ghost 7 training shoes on the day I bought them

Searching for a couple of years for a suitable pair of what I can use as approach shoes I found these at TK Maxx this summer for a bargain price of £35 (SRP £125). Although not officially classified as approach shoes they have an excellent tread that suits off-road tracks and trails. I used them today over similar terrain to what I will encounter next week and found them able to cope with forest tracks and field paths. In the last two Seagrave Wolds Challenge walks I have worn boots but I am seriously considering wearing these as they are far lighter. The one draw back will be if the terrain is wet as these training shoes do not have a waterproof lining.

Asics black socks

Lightweight synthetic socks built for wearing with training shoes. Fast drying and offer reasonable support for their weight. Worn today with the Brooks Ghost 7 training shoes and no issues. Bought a few pairs a couple of years ago from Go Outdoors.

Lacoste underpants

After wearing Y-fronts for the Three Forests Way and having overheating problems in a sensitive region I went out and bought these. Tried them on pervious walks where I was out for up to three hours and they work fine as they did today. Another TK Maxx purchase with a great price reduction. Only problem is I should have bought two pairs!

Silk scarf

Finally, in previous Seagrave Wolds Challenges I have found I needed something to protect my neck when conditions are cold. I have always coveted a silk scarf but a mix of price, colour and pattern have been barriers. Then TK Maxx come to my rescue with a silk scarf made in India which was both cheap and in an appropriate colour with an abstract pattern. I needed this today for the start when I was warming up and I put it on to avoid a chill for the last fifteen minutes of the walk.

The walk

OK so that is the clothing sorted out but how did the walk go? Looking at the BBC weather forecast I knew that I couldn’t hang around too long as they predicted heavy rain at 12 noon. So I decided not to take photographs but just go for it. As the walk is just over seven miles it is almost half the distance of next Saturday’s Seagrave Wolds Challenge 16 miles walk so it will provide an indicator of my fitness level. Setting a fast pace from the outset I went through my timing points in faster times than I had done recently. However, I still wanted to experience the beauty of the countryside so I observed the scene as I walked along. One difference I noticed were mushrooms close by a recently reinstated field path. Then as I passed a section which still has small field systems I startled two green woodpeckers that were feeding on the ground. One was larger than the other so I am assuming that it was an adult with their youngster. The adult gave out the warning call and headed diagonally into a line of trees whilst the youngster took a straight line approach to the same tree line. What other birds in Britain are such a bright green with a vivid red cap? So wonderful to see and the first time I have seen green woodpeckers on this walk which I have completed over many years. Now back to the weather I felt the wind becoming stronger and then the first drops of rain. Looking at my watch it was 11.49am! Not a bad forecast then from the BBC only eleven minutes out! The rain that came wasn’t heavy as predicted but it was enough to need a waterproof jacket. The rain beading on the jacket confirmed it’s waterproofness. In the last fifteen minutes the rain became stronger so it was hood up and head down. As I approached my front door the heavy rain arrived but by then I was inside.

Further information:

http://www.seagravewoldschallenge.co.uk/index.html

http://www.trolloutdoors.com/omni-trouser-original

http://www.mountainhardwear.com/mens-stretch-ozonic-jacket-1584001.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/

Essential Endurance Walking Skills: What to Carry?

Essential Endurance Walking Skills: What to Carry?

Here are some of my personal views when deciding on what to carry on an endurance walk like the 75 mile National Forest Way. This is a trip which I am currently organising and planning to do the walk in three days. On each day I will be walking an average of 25 miles. In this type of activity it is necessary to keep weight down to a minimum to aid enjoyment. Selecting equipment needs thought as when conditions dictate it maybe that you are carrying and not wearing items of clothing. Here you need to be aware that the clothing you use is not only light in weight but is compact and can be easily compressed to reduce volume when packed. Please note that the following observations are based on an endurance walk undertaken in late spring in a low level environment close to human habitation over terrain that consists of public rights of way, paths and tracks.

Equipment for endurance walks

Rucksack

The rucksack is the container for your ‘life support system’ during the trek and this is the starting point to keep weight down. There is no need to have a pack that has all the extras like ice-ax fittings, attachment points for crampons and automatic cup holders! All these add unnecessary weight. For endurance walking in low level terrain I use a pack that has an uncomplicated design, is comfortable to carry, light weight and is around 26 litres capacity. The latter feature is to limit the volume and weight I carry. My current pick of the bunch for endurance walks, and indeed short rambles, is the Black Diamond RPM.  Access to the main body is via a zipped lid and inside is a bladder pouch holder and a front compartment. The lid has a zipped outside pocket and a zipped inside one which includes a clip to hold your keys etc… On the exterior are two mesh pockets each capable of holding a 600ml drinks bottle plus a lunch bar. The volume of the pack can be adjusted by an external draw cord on it’s front face which ensures everything loaded is held tight and close to your back.

Inside the Pack

Waterproof Jacket & Trousers

My most recent addition in outdoor clothing is a Marmot Artemis NanoPro lightweight water proof jacket. I bought this to replace my aging (and leaking) Marmot Preclip jacket. I wanted a lightweight waterproof jacket that had a chest pocket to hold my glasses when it rained hard! And this jacket has said pocket. I have now used it on several occasions including a full day of rain when on the 2014 Seagrave Wolds 16 mile Challenge Walk. It performed perfectly and I remained dry throughout the event. In contrast the oldest item of clothing I am still using is a pair of Rohan overtrousers. I bought these maybe 20 years ago and Rohan’s Waterlight H2P fabric still does the business. Although they are lined they are lightweight and fold up compactly.

Spare Warm Jacket

Again I am going back in time because my Marmot Driclime Jacket from over a decade ago is still the most effective and efficient garment to carry (and wear when needed) providing warmth and an element of wind resistance in a lightweight and compact package. I selected the jacket version with the full length zip to aid getting the garment on and off easily as the need and conditions required. The outer is wind resistant nylon and the inner is a lightweight polyester fleece.

Hat & Gloves

In weather that is forecast to be changeable, which is most of the time in England, I take a warm hat and gloves. These don’t need to be full on mountaineering styles but lightweight and effective ones. My warm hat dates from the last century and is made by Patagonia from their stretch Syncilla fabric whilst my fleece gloves are a similar vintage displaying the Icefall label. A baseball cap is useful just it case the sun decides to come out.

First Aid Kit

The usual stuff: assorted plasters, antiseptic wipes, pain killers and Compeed blister plasters are contained in a fold out pouch. Included in this pouch is a SwissCard due to having a pair of tweezers and a neat pair of scissors along with a tooth pick and nail file! As it is late spring and the sun may be out then it is essential to take sun cream. On recommendation from my daughter, who is a snowboarder, I am taking Piz Buin Mountain Suncream with a 50+ SPF! This provides protection not only from the sun but also cold, wind and high altitudes!

Torch

A trusted Maglite 2 AA cell torch is included in my pack. I will make sure it has a spare bulb in it’s tail and it contains fresh batteries. These essentials, the first aid kit and torch, are kept together in a Lowe Alpine U-shaped mesh bag and then placed in a waterproof bag.

Sit mat

A small piece of closed-cell foam is carried to ensure that when I need to sit down to eat or enjoy the view I can in relative comfort.

Nutrition 

I will carry two 600ml plastic bottles of diluted orange drink for liquid whilst food will consist of a variety of snack bars and dried fruit. This will be supplemented along the way as the route passes through many villages that have shops and some have a pub!

Spares

On a low level walk like this carry spares is not really necessary. Also it is light until late and the essence is to keep moving at a reasonable pace hence not taking the kitchen sink! However, space will be found for a length of paracord which has a multitude of uses including make-do laces.

Keeping it all Dry

Plastic bags will ensure everything is kept dry.

Navigation Aids

Route Plans

I have downloaded the route guides from: http://www.nationalforestway.co.uk/downloads/and have laminated them to protect them from the elements.

Maps

The relevant Ordnance Survey maps will be carried and used: 233, 245 & 246.

Compass

A Silva Type 4 will be taken along as a ‘just in case’.

GPS Receiver

I have one but still debating whether it is worth carrying in this kind of environment. OK it doesn’t weigh much but every kg counts in this game.

I hope you have found this helpful and I welcome comments.