The Duke of Edinburgh Award in Hakuba

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The Duke of Edinburgh Award in Hakuba

The Hakuba Valley boasts many summer activities and as many people know is a real hotspot for outdoor recreation. Having this access to campsites, linked trails and majestic mountains also makes it ideal for schools who are developing outdoor pursuits and getting students engaged in nature. The British School in Tokyo (BST) has been bringing its students up to Hakuba since the early 2000’s and now the school has both summer and winter programs here that really develop their  student’s understanding, respect and knowledge of the outdoors.

Most of the BST students are typically learning and working towards reaching their Duke of Edinburgh Award, which is a culmination of both the hard skills of outdoor trekking & camping and the soft skills of team work, communication and leadership.

For those of you unfamiliar with Prince Philip`s Duke of Edinburgh Award, it is simply an incredible initiative for young people to get out into the great outdoors. In order to attain the award, participants are required to learn a new skill, a sport, volunteer in the community and complete a self-sufficient, self guided expedition. These goals stimulate responsibility, leadership, perseverance and independence, as well as giving them a skill set which will stay with them for life. Designed for those aged between 14 and 24 and broken into three awards, a Bronze, Silver and Gold – it is the optimum opportunity for our young people to take charge of their ambitions and achieve their goals. Since this award`s creation in 1956, it has extended to 140 countries around the world, and luckily for us – Japan is one of them!

Evergreen Outdoor Center have been working with the British School in Tokyo and their Duke of Edinburgh program since its beginning here in Japan and the guides are integral to assisting, mentoring and evaluating the groups involved in the award program. The participants have to carefully pre-plan their route, and exercising their newly acquired map and compass skills, successfully guide themselves on two, three and four day treks, up and over the mountains. Their heavy packs containing their camping and hiking equipment don’t weigh them down though, evident by their admirable camaraderie, great team work and enthusiastic energy!

Hakuba has provided an idyllic location for `D of E` in previous years; with peaks just shy of 3000 meters, permanent snow fields to scramble over and hundreds of hiking trails. Alongside the expeditions themselves, those doing the awards have also been working alongside the Evergreen outdoor guides in pursuits such as mountain biking, kayaking or canoeing. Once they have a good grasp of the sport, the guides teach them how to lead the activities, which they then do for the younger students. In just a few days they are developing their confidence, communication skills and capabilities. The level of leadership and maturity displayed by these youths is really something! The D of E also helps the students develop crucial skills like leadership, teamwork and resilience, which are sought after in today’s job market.

The vision behind this award is something that that Evergreen fully support, as they too love to see young people engaging with their surroundings and developing an aptitude for adventure and activity; there is a lot of potential for this program here in Japan. Evergreen guides and leaders thoroughly look forward to working once more alongside the British School of Tokyo for their next `D of E` trip to Hakuba this coming autumn.

For more information check out Evergreen Outdoor Center

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