Eagle Class Chamonix 2017
Day 5: Joining up the thinking.
The children awoke to the sun once again filling the valley-they were thankful for the warmth for their morning reflections. With journals in hand, the children had the final reflection on Les Gaillands before breakfast. Adorning their Chamonix t-shirts the children filtered into the breakfast room for their final fill of croissants and jams. The chocolat chaud had a certain "je ne sais quoi" as they savoured their last taste of France before heading home.
After breakfast, the children gathered their belongings and checked their room for any stray items. They filled their lunch boxes and said goodbye and thank you to the Hotel Vert and Hotel des Lacs staff. Piling on to the coach, the children said goodbye to Chamonix as they wound their way down the valley on their way to Jardin des Cimes.
Jardin des Cimes was filled with beautiful butterflies and interesting art installations as the children followed the footpath though this tranquil setting. A place originally built for the recovery of tuberculosis, the children had many sensory experiences to explore: from the avalanche sound box with it's glass floor, to the willow-built chairs that sat amidst a variety of native flowers and trees. The children enjoyed an early lunch looking out onto the Alp skyline on Aiuglle du Midi and Mont Blanc-shrouded again in cloud. A reminder that only the day before were we up in the clouds themselves wrapped up in many layers!
The journey to the airport was a smooth transition were talk turned to thoughts of home and seeing family again. Without a hitch, we landed in Heathrow and picked up our bags. We came together for our last circle and the children stepped out into the arrivals terminal as leaders. We were met with photography flashes and waves and cheers as we came through with many hugs and farewells shared.
A truly magical ending to a magical week.
Day 4: What do we need to do for our World?
We woke up this morning to a beautiful blue sky, we had a few white clouds sprinkled here and there. After breakfast we all made our way outside to think about what we would do in Chamonix if we were the Mayor. After a short history of Chamonix and considering everything we had learnt so far in our groups we contemplated ways to improve transport, air pollution, conserve water, save energy and be sustainable with food. The children came up with some brilliant ideas, one being Chamonix to become a car-free town, with big parking areas at both ends of the valley. Convert the current plastic burning factory into a recycling factory and make significant charges for vehicles travelling through the Mont Blanc tunnel. We were so engrossed in our workshop that we didn't notice the clouds slowly drawing in on us until we could hardly see each other. With a little trepidation, we packed up our lunches put every item of clothing we possessed on and made our way up to the Telepherique Aiguille du Midi for the final ascent to the very top (which was totally blurred by very low laying cloud and mist). The climb was a tricky one due to the very thin air. Some children (and adults) were very apprehensive as this ascent is the steepest in the world. We were greeted at the top by a flurry of snow which became more intense as we watched from the viewing point where brave climbers were preparing themselves for a descent, visibility was little more than a metre. Since last year the summit has been developed with a photo gallery and a small museum highlighting the mountain, her history and short biographies of the climbers who have summited her. It was far too cold and snowy to make our pledges and eat our lunches up there at 3,842m above sea level so a quick descent down in the cable car with lots of "Oooh's" and "Ahh's" as we bumped over the pylons found a much milder climate where we could eat our lunch and make our final pledges, what we want to do as individuals to help save our beautiful planet.
A trip around the shops to spend the €20 burning a hole in our pockets was next on our list. We made the 30 minute walk to our hotel feeling satisfied that we had had the most amazing of experiences and determined to stick to the pledges which we had been making all week.
After our final delicious dinner we headed upstairs to pack our rucksacks ready for our departure tomorrow where we will visit Le Jardin des Cimes before heading onto the airport as new Leaders in Sustainability. All the children are so excited to be reunited with their families and tell the tales of their wonderful adventures. We are sure that you to can't wait to hear their epic tales.
Day Three. What do we need as a team to be well?
The children started the morning with a workshop requiring teamwork, communication and listening skills. The aim was to reach the finish line whilst two large wooden skis were attached to the entire team's feet. This started off with only one team managing to move slightly forward, but after good concentration and communication, all the teams crossed the finish line in the end. This was in preparation for the long trek-which lay ahead.
Setting off from the hotel with a walk into town, passing past one of Chamonix's natural springs, we arrived at Montenvers (the funicular station) to take the train all the way up to the Mer de Glace. This glacier would be our main focus for the day. When we arrived at the top of the mountain, we took in the incredible views off the Glacier and the valley below. As we walked down the hundreds of steps to the start of the ice caves, the children noticed signs which showed them how much the glacier had melted because of global warming and the effects of the pollution in the Chamonix valley. They were moved to know that the glacier is still depleting and at such a rapid rate! At the bottom of the valley, we found the entrance to the Ice caves, a series of man-made tunnels boring into the ice which we could explore and walk around whilst learning about the history of the glacier. There was an art installation and the children were wondering if this was for the benefit for the tourists. What was benefitting the glacier?
As we climbed back up to the funicular, the weather forecast for the day had predicted severe thunderstorms and heavy rain. After several calls to the refuge & the Aguille du Midi staff, we were advised not to trek up to le Signal and onto the refuge, but to head back down the mountain and then straight to the refuge on the cable car. Once we arrived at the top, we had a short descent down to the Refuge where the visibility was less than 10 metres. The clouds had wrapped around us and the temperature plummeted as the rain started to fall. Rolls of thunder could be heard across the valley. The children were all wrapped up well and remained positive and stuck together as we made our way down to the Refuge. We took off our wet waterproofs and boots and were greeted by Claude. We worked on our question for the day and reflected on the impact of weather in the mountains and how quickly it can change. The children learnt a very powerful lesson about being prepared.
Fortunately for us, there was a break in the weather so we put our waterproofs back on and trekked down the path which we had planned to walk on earlier that day. The children enjoyed the experience of clambering over the rocks and spotting the nature which surrounded us as we trekked across the mountainside. From noticing geographical features in the environment to spotting unexpected wildlife in the rocks; including a family of marmots and two donkeys.
When we arrived back at the refuge we enjoyed a lovely, warming vegetable soup, followed by a delicious variety of dishes: chicken curry, pasta bolognaise, salad, croquette potatoes and haricot beans. And after all that, it was followed by an apricot glazed tart. Our evening finished with a reflection on the day and making our pledges about teamwork and how we can be supportive leaders.
After a few hard decisions made during the day, the children were glad to be in their dormitories ready to hunker down while the storm passed during the night.
Children's Reflections and Creative Thoughts
Day Two. What do I need to be well?
We all snuggled into bed last night thinking we would wake up to the pattering of raindrops but no. Instead, glorious sunshine greeted us as we tucked into our breakfast of Croissant, Chocolat Chaud, Jus d'orange et du Pain. After reflections on the green, we had group discussions about our focus for the day 'what do I need to be well?'. We designed posters and drew each other without taking the pencil off the page helped us to focus and think about our own needs and those of our friends around us. Luckily, the sun continue to shine throughout lunch time so we could munch on our fresh cheese and ham baguettes and eat delicious flapjacks and fruit before embarking on an energetic afternoon of rock climbing. We thought about our fears and trepidations as we scaled the heights of the rocks next to our hotel. All harnessed up and helmets for protection, our very experienced guides supported us to challenge and push ourselves beyond our expectations. Some of us reached the dizzy heights right at the top, others were happy to experience a small climb, but at the end of the day every child expressed their pride and their great achievements.
During supper tonight, we were told all about how the hotel ensures their business remains as sustainable as possible by using locally sourced food as much as possible and putting into place practices that reduced water consumption and waste. The talk involved discussions around the five areas of our learning this week, Transport, Food, Waste, Energy and Water. We were surprised to hear about some of the pollution issues affecting the residents of Chamonix and this is something that we will consider when we come together to make suggestions about improvements to Chamonix, should we be the mayor.
So tonight we have considered our needs and wants for the journey ahead tomorrow, hopefully bags will be packed with our needs and our wants will be left behind at the hotel!
We are excited and looking forward to the most adventurous day tomorrow, and our next blog will be on Thursday as there is no internet access in the refuge.
Goodnight All, and here's to the next step of our adventure.
Eagle Class Chamonix Sideshow!
Day One: What do we want to learn this week?
Monday 26th June. 0600. As the children congregated outside the school, anxious parents hurl bulging backpacks into the coach. Not a tear was shed - just happy smiles and big waves as the coach edged its way along Ashley Road in the direction of St. Pancras Station. The journey was pretty smooth apart from a 15 minute delay on the Eurostar; this meant that we had to take the Metro instead of a march across Paris. All connections ran very smoothly with the children being excellent ambassadors of Ashley School.
On arrival at the hotel, we were greeted with large spots of rain so a good opportunity to find our rooms and make ourselves feel at home. After a delicious evening meal of fish, potatoes and vegetables followed by a chocolate brownie and chocolate sauce, we headed out to Le Gaillands to reflect on the day, think about what we want to learn and what we already know about ourselves. In a circle we had some quiet moments where we listened to the sounds of the mountains and the call of the birds around us.
Tired and weary, the children are all tucked up in bed dreaming of things to come tomorrow, what adventures are in store on Day 2.
So all in all, a great start to what we anticipate being an amazing, inspiring and adventurous week in Chamonix.
Throughout today, most of the children have taken a Car, a Eurostar, a Metro, a Train and a Coach - something for our transport group to reflect on...