On Friday 26th July, the Wettest Classroom on Earth returned to Welsh Back harbour in Bristol after an eight-week voyage like no other. 96 shipmates, made up of school children and teaching staff, have been sailing around the UK coast, with each shipmate learning, working, eating and sleeping on board the ship for seven days at sea.
Pupils have been sharing stories with their classmates of their incredible adventure. Highlights included climbing the rigging, steering the ship and spotting dolphins, puffins, seals and a minke whale.
Chloe, age 17 and a student at Merchants’ Academy said: “I wanted to inspire my younger sisters to aim high and try new things. I knew that if they saw me take on this challenge, they’d wonder what extraordinary things they could achieve in life!”
Connor, age 17 also from Merchants’ Academy, said: “Mentoring the younger pupils was really rewarding. Some were seasick and some were homesick. Some questioned their ability to take on challenging tasks, such as climb the rigging. Providing encouragement and support to them made me feel proud of myself. The experience has made me want to find a career that allows me to support and encourage others.”
Fern, age 11 and a pupil at The Dolphin School, said: “I learnt that you have to keep going, even when things get tough. And that there’s a really big world out there to explore!”
Ciara, age 10 and also a pupil at The Dolphin School, said: “I learnt how important it is to be able to rely on the people around you.”
Tallulah, age 11 and a pupil at The Dolphin School, said: “I learnt that if I put my mind to it and try my hardest, I really can achieve anything!”
Leon, age 14 and a pupil at Venturers’ Academy said: “I have learnt how to believe in myself and I’m braver than I ever was before.”
Also from Venturers’ Academy, Ainsley, age 10 said: “I didn’t think someone like me would be chosen. It was an amazing experience, can we do it again?!”
The initiative was 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 are working together, encouraging each other and overcoming challenges as a team – all on the open sea.
During each leg at sea, home for the students has been 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 who took 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 sent 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.
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 never forget sailing the vessel through Loch Ness – a far cry from the suburbs of Bristol!
The vast majority of funding for the 27 Venturers Trust children who took part, was provided by the Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV), whose members donated £45,000. The Society is co-sponsor of Venturers Trust, along with the University of Bristol.
Master of SMV, Tony Kenny, who has been closely following the boat’s progress throughout the voyage, said: “This has been an incredible experience for everyone involved. We are delighted to have been able to support this initiative, which goes to show that there really are no limits to what young people can achieve.”