Written by Angeles Zũniga (Class of 2018, Venezuela)
Outdoor Education is off to a great start with stream sign-ups, tons of snow, new trips and opportunities coming up! Everyone in the Outdoor Education department is extremely excited to see how things pan out with all the fun stuff that are set to happen over the next few months!
Last week, all our students had the opportunity to change from one stream to another. The sign-up was led by students from Stream 3, and It was a great chance for students who were interested in learning more skills and collaborating with the department to ask questions about outdoor education, the expectations of each stream, and the trips that are available during the next few months of school. The students who signed up for Stream 2 (Skill Development) will spend the next few months training for a 4-day expedition that will take place during the spring break!
“Throughout the quarter, our Stream 2 students will be developing their skills and fitness, with one of their goals being to plan and complete an expedition to the Izu peninsular during the March break. We hope that Izu will offer a welcome respite from the cold and also allow our students to enjoy a different area of Japan with its own unique landscapes, food and onsen! A number of snowshoeing and ski trips are offered throughout February, including trips proposed by our Stream 3 students,” shares Mr. Tuggey, who coordinates the Outdoor Education department.
Akagi Hike – Mount Ara (荒山）
“One thing I have learned since I started to take hiking more seriously is that hiking teaches you how to walk again. It’s basically as if you are a toddler again and you fall every few seconds as you become more balanced and strong. The Akagi hike made me walk again. First of all, I have not hiked in a long time, so I had to get used to how trails are not perfect walkways. Second, there was the challenge of having snow and ice on the trail. Every step I took in this expedition I had to plan carefully. Once you learn to walk again you can go a great distance and there will be a nice view.”
– Cristina (Class of 2011, USA)
The first hike of 2018 took place last Sunday in the Akagi area, in Gunma prefecture. What used to be known as Akagi village (but which has now merged into the larger city of Shibukawa) is a beautiful mountainous area, with lakes, vegetations and shrines making it a great spot with an almost magical atmosphere to contemplate nature. Akagi is also known for being cloudy almost all the time, so as soon as we found out that the forecast predicted sunny warm weather, we knew we had to go there and make the best out of it!
This hike was a training session for our Stream 3 and Stream 2 students, who learnt about navigation, how to take bearings and find coordinates on the map, and using a route card to decide where to go. The start was slow, as we were learning about different features and the use of evidence to make sure we were on the right path — at each junction we would have group discussions about the contours, like valleys or shoulders, and where we needed to go next. After stopping for a quick snack, we headed to the summit of Mt. Ara, which is 1572m high, and we got a breathtaking view of the Akagi valleys and snowy Mt. Tanigawa, which is a mountain that our students have been to a couple of times as well!
After the hike, the group enjoyed a visit to Lake Onuma, which was entirely frozen, walked through a lovely red bridge that goes across the lake and visited the famous Akagi Shrine!
“I liked the training with the compass and map. I also really like it that hiking requires a lot of physical and mental effort. Walking for a long time, sometimes just looking at the path, you have to be resilient and persevere until the hike is over. It was my first hike and I expected it to be shorter, so I was quite surprised when several hours passed and we were not there yet. It was an enjoyable experience though! The group was more experienced than me, so they would help me a lot, always be willing to answer my questions and work together!“
– Hatem (Class of 2019, Palestine)
Taking advantage of our snowy surroundings, Outdoor Education has planned for weekly skiing trips for students of all levels and skills to enjoy of the sport. We believe that it is an excellent recreational sport that will be a unique experience for many. As such, we would like all UWC ISAK students to have the opportunity to experience skiing during their time at the school.
Also, G10 students will have a program on Tuesdays, where students take skiing lessons and ski proficiency tests. This will help us get a better idea of the skills everyone has and ultimately aid our mission of having everyone ski at least once during their stay here!
“For many of our students, it is their first chance to ski and snowshoe and due to a generous offer from the Prince resort, we have the opportunity to give many of our students the chance to ski for a morning for just ¥1000! Understandably, the majority of our snowshoe trips are to plateaus such as Kirigamine and Utsukishigahara, and we hope the calm beauty of these areas offer our students a very different look at the winter season, away from the bustle of the pistes in an environment as challenging as it is beautiful.”
– Mr. Tuggey, Outdoor Education Coordinator