Hero photograph

Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award

Alison Middelkoop —

This year we started off with a ‘hiss and a roar’ with the largest number of students coming to the initial meeting of the year to find out what the Award was about. From this 19 students signed up to start their Bronze Award and a few more were thinking about it……..Then, “Lockdown” happened.

Some students, already with sections set up, were able to continue to work on activities from within the confines of their home and neighbourhood. For example: land based training instead of swimming, practicing musical instruments and having lessons via Zoom. However, for other activities it did slow student progress through the Award a little this year. Luckily, compared to other parts of the world we were soon back up and running with very few restrictions. Having missed the autumn season for tramping, the Adventurous Journey section had to wait until spring to start up again. Since September, there have been numerous trips taking place over the holidays and long weekends. A big shout out goes to the work from our Adventurous Journey providers, especially Bushworks.NZ for all the hours spent with our students developing their outdoors skills. The International Award body have also given us flexibility for this year, allowing training and single qualifier trip at Bronze level, where the student demonstrated sufficient skills on the trip.

So, at the time of writing, 12 students have gained their Award at Bronze Level this year, with several more with only a few more hours to complete. Many of these students have now started on their Silver Award. Three students achieved the Award at Silver level and, the best news of all is that two Year 13 students, Thomas Anderson and Thomas James completed their Gold Award. The two Thomas’s were awarded their certificate at a ceremony that was attended by The Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy at the start of October.

The Gold Award is a prestigious International Award that recognises the culmination of the efforts of students towards balancing their academic studies with Service, Skills and Physical activity and the challenge that comes with their Adventurous Journeys. It truly demonstrates that a student is a well-rounded individual.

Here are the synopses of their journeys through the Award.

Thomas Anderson

Thomas A. started his Bronze Award as soon as he turned 14 at the end of Year 9. For the Skill section Thomas has progressed through the levels with the same activity – learning the play the acoustic guitar. His teacher said in his Gold report, “Thomas has now reached an advanced playing level on classical guitar which very few of my students have exceeded and which many observers would agree is now well in advance of my own performance level. He has made excellent use of his time and skill in this field as in others and can rightly be pleased with his achievement.

For the Physical Recreation section Thomas started off with Athletics, running middle and long distances but at Gold Level concentrated on gaining his black belt in karate. He has also put his passion for karate to good use for the Service section giving his time to coach younger students. His mentor for this activity said,Thomas has continued to grow as a student, a leader, a teacher a coach and a person. His experience and ability exceed most his age and he continues to strive for personal excellence while helping others to reach their goals.

Thomas James

Thomas J. also started at the end of Year 9 and worked hard to complete all three levels by early in Year 13. For his Physical section he has pushed himself to improve his swimming skills and fitness from Bronze through to Gold level and for his Voluntary service he has worked with younger children in his church youth group continuously over 4+ years.

His church pastor said after he had completed his Gold Award, “Thomas has developed even more as a leader and can step in to take over leading the whole group if needs be. He is very adaptable and willing to step up. He speaks clearly and commands the attention of a large group of children in a gentle but assertive way. He clearly explains to them the steps of the game or activity and is not afraid to be vulnerable in acting and storytelling. The boys in his small group really connect with him - he has a great relationship with them”

For the Skill section Thomas took up photography at Bronze level and developed his skills through his Silver Award. However, at Gold level he displayed his passion and talent for Engineering, designing a robot for elderly or disabled people to take their wheelie bins to and from the kerb. This helped him earn his Gold Award but also won him the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist award.

For their Adventurous Journeys both boys tramped many kilometres in the back country of New Zealand, learning to travel safely across rivers, camp and cook, (without burning) tasty food. The memories from these trips will last a lifetime.