School: Bridgwater & Taunton College, Bridgwater, Somerset
Subject: Creativity, activity, service (CAS)
KS: International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)
Number of pupils: 14
Meeting local Berber people, hiking in the Atlas Mountains and going on a camel ride were among the many highlights of Bridgwater & Taunton College’s visit to Morocco.
In 2007 the Somerset tertiary college gained approval to deliver the International Baccalaureate Programme, and since 2009 it has been running an annual trip to the exotic destination which is known as Europe’s gateway to Africa and fulfils the creativity, activity, service (CAS) element of the diploma.
Martyn Aldridge, IB coordinator, said: “When we started we looked at various overseas trips and locations which fell through due to cost of flights and the travel times or political instability in the countries we were looking at. We are a state college and wanted as many of our students as possible to be able to go on the trip as well the destination being significantly culturally different.”
The search led them to World Youth Adventures (WYA), which was initially suggested by a third party tour operator. A specialist division of World Expeditions, WYA is dedicated to organising overseas school group adventures to more than 20 countries.
Pictured: An important part of the school trips is meeting the local Berber families.
Martyn explained how a conversation with their Moroccan guide in the early days led to a long-standing partnership with the village of Aguersioual in the Atlas Mountains, which is home to some 35 Berber families. Each year up to 28 students go on the trip which varies in length from eight to 11 days. Four or five teachers accompany the students and accommodation is in village house rooms that sleep two to six.
"We wanted to become involved in education and infrastructure projects in an ordinary village rather than be part of larger projects where others followed after we left,” he said.
“Over the years the students have built an incinerator to improve the environmental impact of rubbish being dumped on the mountains, reinstated a traditional corn mill, planted cacti to stop soil erosion when the floods come, repaired paths and cleared and built drainage ditches to channel water away from the village.
Pictured: The students take part in village work as part of the experience.
“We have found some of the best projects involved students passing stones or buckets in a chain gang and working alongside the local people."
"It makes it all a very real and authentic experience”
In addition to teamwork, the WYA trips focus on building self-confidence, cultural understanding and an interest in natural environments, and itineraries can be tailored to the requirements of individual schools.
In addition to the work in the village the students go on treks in the Atlas Mountains and enjoy experiences such as riding camels and going on horse-drawn carriage rides in Marrakesh.
Martyn said: “The trip is a huge opportunity for cultural exchange. The one thing that always stands out, and the thing the students talk about most on return, is the sense of community that they experience in the village. They see how people can be happy with a far simpler existence and this helps the students to reflect on their lives at home.
“The junior school is 2km away from the village and students have walked there with the children. The village children stop halfway, waiting to see if the teacher is going to turn up as sometimes they don’t. When they do the children run along behind the car cheering. That wouldn’t happen to me!”
Back in the classroom
Students shared interactive tales of their Moroccan journey with a group of local primary school pupils - some of whom might become the adventurers of the future.
Pictured: The group against a backdrop of the stunning Atlas Mountains.
Martyn explained: “One of the IB requirements is for pupils to reflect on what they have done and write it up. We have links with the local primary school, which is just across the road, and a group of Year 6 pupils were invited over to hear all about it.
“Students gave a presentation on the trip and showed photographs of Morocco, including animals such as the camels we rode. Afterwards they took the primary pupils to a photo booth where they were able to dress up in robes and head scarves and have their photos taken against a Moroccan backdrop.”
Ongoing support for Aguersioual also sees students packing bags at the Bridgwater branch of Morrisons to raise funds for projects that have included providing bursaries to enable village children to continue their education after the age 12 and classes for adult women who did not get an education.
Martyn said: “We have seen one girl become the first in the village to go to university and a boy complete university and become a teacher, we really look forward to the updates each year.”
World Youth Adventures: