As an introduction, can you tell us about yourself and your role with Nord Anglia?
My name is David Wall, and I am the Head of Expeditions for Nord Anglia’s Global Campus Worldwide Expedition Programme. I coordinate, manage and provide collaborative expeditions across our group of schools to bases in Tanzania, Africa and Les Martinets, Switzerland.
Since I joined Nord Anglia in 2014, I’ve led Nord Anglia’s ambitious vision for outdoor education.
What inspired you to enter into this role?
I originally studied “outdoor and environmental education” at university and have built my career on offering amazing outdoor opportunities to children.
Before joining Nord Anglia, I worked as a full-time outdoor education instructor New Zealand, Ireland, Wales, Singapore, and the UK.
In general, what are Nord Anglia’s expeditions about?
The expeditions are all about putting learning into action through outdoor education, which is all about supporting and expanding what’s taught in the classroom.
IGSCE Biology, for example, would be made more applicable in the context of a two-day safari. You could cover much of the lessons by seeing first-hand the different flora and fauna and by looking at topics such as adaptation in that context. You’re not just observing animals or environments, you’re actually applying context to classroom lessons.
As another example, if you stand in the base of a glacial valley, you’re not just imagining a lump of ice in a book — rather, you can really grasp the bigger picture. Students can suddenly see how glaciers might have retreated an entire kilometre in a five year span, and become aware of how it was caused by our impact on the world.
These are lessons you don’t forget. There’s so striking because you’re not just tapping into academic aspects of the way a student thinks, you’re tapping into the emotion aspects as well—and that’s really where you change perspectives.
Are there other ways these expeditions benefit Nord Anglia students? Do you notice any changes before and after?
They also impact how students interact with the environment and each other. I’m talking about emotional and social benefits. Students have time to take a step back from their everyday environments. They can spend more time connecting with each and with their surroundings, and have a more creative and tactile experience with the outdoors than they would normally do.
The big challenge is how to keep that ball rolling in the school, which is why a long-term outdoor education is more beneficial in all of our schools. Then it’s not a stand-alone experience, but part of a programme of experiences that help shape a student through their school career.
Is the impact mainly on those traveling, or do other students benefit?
Well, those who go on expeditions enjoy clear benefits, as discussed. I’ve noticed students a few years in advance of their trips already eagerly looking forward to it. They can’t wait to go. They’re already starting to immensely prepare themselves, learning what they can through Global Campus and listening to stories of students who come back.
However, it also creates cross-year conversations: older students coach younger students with advice, which is often quite powerful. The expeditions affect the ethos of entire schools, letting students understand they are a positive force for change and can make a difference instead of standing by to watch as things happen. In this way, the expeditions really add to the culture and community of Nord Anglia as a group of schools.
Why Tanzania and Les Martinets? What makes them the ideal locations for trips?
They are fantastic, well-equipped, well-located bases that are ideal for teaching students. In fact, I expanded the programme from a practical point of view being conscious of our group’s scale of growth, with a larger purpose-built expeditions centre for our students to use. We’re really lucky to have these bases for our students to use!
What is the next planned expedition? Are there any changes coming up this year?
Our team of instructors will be heading to the base in Switzerland to set up for the upcoming expedition season, which will be the largest season seen at Les Martinets to date.
There are some key things this year. We’ve run our first “Snowsports Trips”, which have been an outstanding success. This year, we’re also running our “Trekking Expedition” and our “Advanced Trekking Expedition” as well.
Last year, we did a route on one of the most spectacular treks ever, the Tour du Grand Muveran, with amazing scenery and the perfect level of challenge. When we talk about these experiences that change students, this trek is it. Students truly enjoy the spectacular beauty and the level of endurance required.
What is your future vision for expeditions with Nord Anglia Education?
With the expansion of our group of schools, I do see the programmes continuing to grow. When I started, we had 21 schools in our group with one expedition base. We’re now working towards offering up to 2,500 places in Tanzania and Switzerland. We’re hoping to have new expeditions coming online instead of turning students away.
The next logical step would be to consider additional expedition bases, especially considering the geographical distribution of our schools. I do think there is a lot of scope for regional expeditions, whereby we provide a framework for schools to work together on a particular expedition. Again, that would increase the level of collaboration between our schools but also allow people to come up with their own ideas for trips. It’s all about building continuity of amazing experiences, which are more impactful if they’re followed-up with another outstanding experience; it doesn’t have to be the other side of the world, it can be in their back garden.
We’re also always considering ways to further tie into the “Be Ambitious” profile, including ways to further benchmark how students’ confidence, flexible thinking and other areas are being positively impacted through the programme.
Lastly, do you have any practical advice for students who want to go?
If students are interested in going on an expedition, they should go for it! Speak to your Global Campus lead teacher or those within your school who deal with outdoor education.
None of our trips are so elite that students can’t prepare. We offer a wide-range of expeditions, and some are incredibly challenging, but anybody can prepare for them. They are all accessible. All expeditions have a training programme, presented on Global Campus, which students can work through with the support their lead teachers. We always design activities that give students tools they’ll need. Part of the excitement is learning together and developing as a group; it’s part of creating a positive learning environment for students to be involved in.