Outdoor Adventure placement

Robyn Masterson, a student studying Level 3 BTEC in Outdoor Adventure at Shuttleworth College is currently on a work experience placement at Thorpe Woodlands Adventure Centre in Norfolk. This is what Robyn told us about the first 10 days of his experience.

Day 1 – On my first day I got to work with a Year 11 group. They spent the morning doing team challenges; working on communication and leadership skills, making sure to include everyone from the group. In the afternoon they completed more challenging activities such as Tree Trekking and Zip wire where I helped encourage them to face their fears of heights. When working with this group I didn’t feel fully confident with what I was doing as I hadn’t completed many of the activities and the group wasn’t much younger than me, but I feel as though I tried very hard to speak up and talk them through what they should do.

Day 2 – I got to work with an NCS group with high needs, where we had to make special adaptions to some activities. This was more challenging than the day before as the young people struggled to understand some instructions given to them. I paid special attention to their body language to try and understand what they were feeling as they couldn’t always express it vocally. Overall I found this day extremely eye-opening, as it was completely different to any group I’d worked with before. I made an effort to observe the instructors, gaining an understanding of how they adapt their teaching styles from group to group.

Day 3 – I took part in some training, this included training on how to use and lead sessions on the Team Challenge equipment. Firstly we attempted some of the challenges ourselves and then spent time observing some of the instructors, getting a feel for how they all word their briefs and the scenarios they use. Secondly we practiced leading each one and went through how to adapt them for different ages.

Day 4 – I took part in High Ropes training; this included many activities such as Tree Trekking, Zip wire and Climbing. For each activity I watched an instructor set up, getting an idea of how each piece of equipment is used. I then had a go at setting each activity up myself using the pointers I was given as I went along. Once this was checked by an instructor I could try again and learn from my mistakes. I kept attempting each one until all of them were spot on. I found this day extremely beneficial.

Day 5 – On this day I set up the High Ropes activities using the skills I had learnt in day 4. After doing so I was taught how to use adaptions for people with Higher Needs, these include assisted climbing, how to hoist someone up the climbing tower and assisted big swing. I then attempted each one on my own until I got them right, I found this very helpful as it is not something I have ever done before. I also learnt how to perform a rescue on Tree Trekking, by lowering the climber to the ground using a D4. This was very beneficial as many children struggle with Tree Trekking so I will put this into practise a fair bit within my placement.

Day 6 – Day six was the first Primary School Residential; this was very different to the other groups I’d worked with at Thorpe Woodlands Adventure Centre, as there is a significant age difference. This included many things, such as helping them do simple things like make beds, or helping those who could not ride a bike. I spent time on a tandem bike so no one missed out on mountain biking sessions, which was very good for me as it included being one to one with young people rather than a group environment. I also spent time with those who didn’t like heights, encouraging them to face their fears and give things a go. This residential was great to boost my confidence and gain more knowledge by shadowing the instructors and getting an idea of how they work with the younger age groups.

Day 7 – This day brought a special needs residential group to the centre. This was in complete contrast from the primary schools, as they needed a lot more guidance. Within this residential I could see the assisted equipment be used in a proper session and see how beneficial it is for those young people who wouldn’t normally be able to partake in outdoor activities. We used specially adapted bikes and they all had so much fun, which was great to see, this was a challenging session but I learnt a lot. I had to adapt my leadership styles yet again to suit the group and their levels of understanding. For example one child was deaf which added more complications, once I got to know the individuals I could interpret what they were saying to me. This was a very good day for me to learn different ways in which you can explain each session.

Day 8 – I got to spend time working on my canoe rescues making sure they were up to scratch as I hadn’t led a canoe session for a while. I also spent time learning the games they use on the water here, as they are slightly different to the ones we used at Shuttleworth Activity Centre. I spent time getting to know the ways in which they explain their briefs and the boundaries in which they usually set for a canoe session. I did this by observing many sessions led by a variety of instructors; this was very beneficial.

Day 9 – I worked on Caving and Archery, I observed sessions led by other instructors picking up on ways they explain each part of the activities. On the caving session I learnt the games they use and how they support young people who may have some concerns about small spaces. For archery I learnt the basics on how sessions are led and how to set up the activity, I have shadowed sessions to pick up some of the basic skills you need when leading a group. I hope to follow this up by completing my Archery Instructor course so I can teach sessions by myself rather than shadowing another instructor at all times; this will help me put my own skills into practice.

Day 10 – This day involved helping with my second primary school residential. This was extremely helpful when building on skills from previous days as I got to put some of the training into practice. I led some of the team challenge activities, which included giving safety briefs and leading games within each activity. I also gave briefs when canoeing and led the biking group for part of the session, this helped to build my confidence and also helped me learn the ways in which staff at the centre lead their activities. I have spent time learning and working on how to light a fire big enough for a campfire in the evenings so with this residential I lit the fire with some guidance from an instructor when needed. Overall I feel as though this residential was very beneficial and I could spend time putting what I’d learnt wit previous groups into practice and developing those skills further.

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