All hands on deck for Venturers Trust students as they live and learn aboard the ‘Wettest Classroom on Earth’.
On Saturday 25th May, eight adventurous students from Venturers Trust set sail from Welsh Back harbour aboard a classroom like no other. With a host of family, friends, classmates, teachers and governors waving from the dockside, the Queen Galadriel departed on the first of eight legs that will take a total of 96 shipmates, made up of school children and teaching staff, around the UK coast over a two-month voyage of adventure, returning on 26th July.
As well as sailing the ship under the watchful eye of a skilled crew, the children are now learning, working, eating and sleeping on board the ship for seven days at sea, before docking in harbour where a new group of students will take over and set sail for the next destination.
The initiative has been developed by Venturers Trust, together with Extreme Classrooms, the Cirdan Trust, Whole Education and Kunskapsskolan. The Wettest Classroom has been over two-years in the making, including a challenging selection camp last summer, held in Snowdonia for 166 students from across the country. A fully inclusive expedition, children from all over the UK will work together, encourage each other and overcome challenges as a team.
During each leg at sea, home for the students will be a Baltic Trader, 32.9 metres long with a beam of 6.6 metres, built in 1937 in Denmark. The ship, which sleeps up to 16 crew members, was bought by the Cirdan Trust in 1983 and renamed Queen Galadriel.
The children taking part range in age from 10 to 18 and represent 11 different primary schools, secondary schools, sixth forms and a special school. Venturers’ Academy in Withywood, a special school for children with a primary diagnosis of Autism, has been at the forefront of this initiative from day one and will be sending 15 students on the voyage, across four separate legs of the journey. The academy’s motto ‘Where everything’s possible’ underpins the curriculum and so the opportunity to sail around the circumference of the UK was a challenge the whole academy got behind from the very start.
When the ship set sail from Welsh Back in Bristol on 25th May, the crew consisted of three children from Venturers’ Academy and five children from The Dolphin School in Montpelier, accompanied by seven teaching staff. Of the 11 schools taking part in the entire voyage, five are from the South West region, three of which are part of Venturers Trust. Students from Merchants’ Academy in Withywood will be taking the ship’s wheel for the Peterhead to Oban leg, where they will navigate the vessel through Loch Ness – a far cry from the suburbs of Bristol!
The vast majority of funding for the 27 Venturers Trust children taking part, was provided by the Society of Merchant Venturers, whose members donated £45,000. The Society is co-sponsor of Venturers Trust, along with the University of Bristol.
Trystan Williams, Principal of Venturers’ Academy and spearheading the initiative on behalf of Venturers Trust, said: “Real-world experiences bring the curriculum to life and can be quite literally life changing for young people. The depth of commitment required to bring together an event like this is extraordinary and I am grateful to everyone who has helped to move this incredible initiative from the drawing board to the water!”
Alan Chambers MBE, polar explorer and CEO of Extreme Classrooms, said: “This experience will increase the confidence of every child who takes part. They will each feel proud of their achievement and will develop teamwork and leadership skills by rolling up their sleeves and gaining hands-on experience in a challenging but unforgettable environment.”
Gail Bragg, Chair of Venturers Trust, said: “Schools within Venturers Trust place no limit on what we believe our students can achieve and this expedition is evidence of that. The students and teachers have been working really hard to prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I am so proud of each and every one of them for stepping outside their comfort zone and being inspirational role models for their peers.”