Students Brave the Snow for Silver Map Day

March 12th, 2010 saw the Duke of Edinburgh silver group of Meldrum Academy brave the freezing outdoors to acquire the orienteering skills essential for their final expedition. Although the weather had been good for the last month, the night before the map day snow began to fall rapidly. By the morning of the map day a thick layer coated the desolate Bennachie hills which they would attempt to navigate through.
            The day started with a short briefing – no one wanted to stand around for long in the freezing conditions – before they started to hone their map reading skills. The first task was to count the amount of steps it would take to complete one hundred metres. This was done to varying degrees of success. Some pupils aptly strode from one end of the 50 metre rope and back counting their steps as they went with little trouble. Some pupils counted one way but not the other. Some pupils lost count or forgot to count at all. Some pupils didn’t manage to complete the hundred metre stroll without falling over.
            Next it was practising setting your map; a process which enables the reader to decide which direction they wish to travel in by lining the map up with the direction of North. This task was handled well by all, apart from those incapable of holding a compass straight.
            When the students had reached an approved level of map competence, they were unleashed on the hill. With the snow still falling around them the five brave groups endeavoured to navigate around 10 different points using only their maps, their compasses and their own skill in judgement. The teachers accompanied the groups around the first few points before letting them go their own way and make their own mistakes. In this emotional parting the dependant became the independent through the skills they had learnt that morning. When the tears had dried the groups set off to face the brutal conditions on their own.
            By lunch the groups were back inside after completing their epic journeys between 10 points on the hill. It was almost an orienteering rite of passage. As they sat down to their pack lunches inside the Bennachie centre, the level of camaraderie between the group members was incredible. A real sign of the benefits the Duke of Edinburgh program
            After lunch, the whole group went out together for one final walk but due to the persisting snow fall the walk was cut short. The group returned to the Bennachie centre and awaited their journeys home to warmth and comfort. The day had been brutal, uncomfortable and tiring but the 22-strong group, which had arrived on the hillside as boys and girls, left as men and women.
              By George Bruce
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