story 1 June 2019

A self-sufficient expedition

Two people in a canoe on a lake

The Ashley school in Suffolk set a fantastic example when six of their young people completed a challenging and adventurous Silver DofE kayaking expedition. This was made all the more inspiring considering all of the participants had moderate learning difficulties and complex additional needs.

Moderate learning difficulties is a broad spectrum term but in this case, the DofE participants all had low cognitive abilities and other associated issues such as poor behaviour and low self esteem.

The DofE Expedition section gave the participants a fantastic chance to participate in a self-sufficient shared journey and to develop their core skills. These include the ability to identify and manage risk, teamwork and communication skills.

After spending time with the group, DofE leader Lawrence felt that kayaking could be a fantastic method of travel for the group’s expedition. However, as the group were all novice kayakers, the participants attended kayak training over a series of after-school sessions. This meant the group achieved a British Canoe Union two star standard in kayaking and also achieved the Skills section of their DofE programme at the same time.

Kayaking on the expedition allowed the group to embrace the self-reliant nature of a DofE expedition as navigating the river would be less complex than if the group were travelling by foot. Lawrence and the group also made picture route cards which meant that the group could easily navigate the river by matching landmarks along the route.

The group also found that by kayaking, they could take more accessible equipment which would have otherwise been too heavy to carry. This meant that the group could also take heavier tents which were easier to assemble, and heavier tinned foods.

The participants found the expedition extremely challenging but at the same time, highly rewarding and memorable. Given the chance to be independent and self sufficient, the group persevered and successfully achieved their Silver Awards on par with their peers. DofE Leader, Lawrence, says:

“The group found the expedition tough but used great teamwork skills to help complete it.”

Opportunity Finder

This link opens an external site. All content is not affiliated with DofE. Please click proceed if you understand these risks.