18 July 2018

Into the field with school children

Some time ago I got a request from my colleague Lynda; could I help out when she would be taking  schoolkids around Cwm Idwal? I could. I assumed I would get more information closer to the time.

I phoned her two days in advance. At least I needed to know what time to be where! But more information would be nice. How many children, were they all doing geography A levels, that sort of stuff. Lynda didn't quite know. But at least we had a logistic plan. The coach that would bring them would, of course, come through Bethesda, so it would just stop at the bus stop and pick me up. So I stood there at the agreed time, with my lunch in my bag. And the coach appeared right on time.

In the coach I was filled in on the details. The children were not A level students as we thought, but had just done GCSEs; they were about 15 or 16. We had 23 on the morning, but would have a lot more in the afternoon! And they were from different schools, but all from Cheshire, and they were would be doing all kinds of A levels. They had a whole week at university; they had already visited psychology, for instance. And Welsh. And it was all something to do with a community service scheme in which the children would not only familiarise themselves with universities, but also do charity work and outdoor activities. It sounded cool!

The children seemed not to know what they were in for. They seemed to not have been briefed! Many were in miniskirts and the like. Not many jackets on show! But at least no flip-flops or heels. Lynda was quite miffed at the low level of organisation; she had told to organisers precisely waht she wanted these kids to wear, bring and expect. That information seemed not to have reached them! But well, we had to make do with what we had.

We decided to keep the group intact and just do the trip together. We also had two student guides, and a few organisers. We knew it would be busy in the valley; the university would have another large group in there (of PhD students from all over the country) and there clearly were primary schools in there, and families, and dog walkers, and whatnot.

Lynda and I took turns explaining things about what's to see there regarding the geology and geomorphology. And how it ties in to history. Darwin did fieldwork there! But the group had several really slow people in it and we did go all around the lake, but by doing that we were back at the bus too late. Oh dear!

Getting ready for a selfie

If you have a lake, then use it!

When the bus had left we had lunch on a bench. After a while the people who would lead the PhD students around arrived, and we had a nice chat. It was an unfortunate thing these trips were on the same day! Lynda and I could have done with more staff, but these were all already booked by the other trip. But then the PhD students appeared and our colleagues vanished.

Who didn't vanish were loads of kids who were gathered where we were. I am not keen on groups of children swirling around me, but I was OK; Lynda was suffering a lot more. That doesn't happen to me very often! But at some point they were marched off into a coach of their own and we had peace.

About 15 minutes late our coach arrived. It had some 40 children this time. One of the student guides came out and approached us; it rained, and the students refused to come on the walk! Really? Well if so we could just go home. We were here for them, not for our own amusement! But they changed their minds and came with us. This time we split up. I went counterclockwise and Lynda clockwise. And fortunately, the rain soon stopped.

My afternoon group was a lot quicker than the morning group! We had started half an hour late so we couldn't do the entire trip, but I managed to show them all glacial features, talk to them about Darwin, explain about how the Iapetus ocean was responsible for all the rock there, and for the deformation too. I got to the last Ice Gae and the Younger Dryas. And I pointed out the the Devil's Kitchen has mafic rocks in its centre, and why that is interesting. That was about it! And I delivered my group back at about 3 minutes past 4. And that wasn't too late as neither Lynda's group nor the coach was there yet.

Some of the kids thanked me, which was nice. And the coach driver dropped me off in the village again. It was quite fun, actually! Although there was some typical teenage behaviour going on. But telling people cool things in a beautiful landscape is rather pleasant. And I was glad I had been there; it would have been too much for Lynda to do alone!

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