Up early this morning to drive to a primary school in St Helens for the first day of my BELA course. I got there early and sat sipping a coffee as the other delegates arrived. There are 21 of us in all. Most of the trainers we'll be meeting over the next few months were there too to introduce themselves.
BELA stands for Basic Expedition Leaders' Award and will qualify me to lead bronze and silver expeditions for Duke of Edinburgh Award students. It's only one step down from the walking group leaders' qualification and so should stand me in good stead to achieve that whenever I get round to going for it.
It's quite a time commitment as between now and November I have to attend three residential weekends. They start on the Friday evening and finish on the Sunday. I have to do another one in March for my assessment. In between finishing the third residential weekend and the assessment I have to fit in 30 hours of leading kids on walks. This concerns me a bit as it'll be in the winter when daylight is short and the weather may be bad. Although this wouldn't stop me from going out on a walk myself I won't be able to take students out in the dark or in torrential storms and heavy snow drifts. I thought I'd be able to backdate these 30 hours to the spring and early summer when I spent, what seemed like, most of my weekends out with kids on practice and assessed bronze and silver expedition weekends.
What I can backdate is my own walking experience. I have to fill in a log of walks I've done myself. Easy-peasy - I've got lots of them logged on here so I just have to flip back through my blog and copy the details over.
Throughout the day we went over the expectations of the course and got a lot of the admin and form-filling done. Then we looked at equipment and did quite an interesting exercise in which we were given an equipment list, a total cost spent and lot of pictures of equipment from which we had to choose items to fit the cost we'd been given. It really showed how little you can spend to get the basics on a low budget and how much you can spend if you want to splash out on the best of everything and/or go for named brands.
We looked at some actual equipment and were advised on how to tell if something is good or not and which items it's worth spending a bit more on to get something decent (basically the things that can hurt you - boots and rucksack and also jacket because being soaking wet and cold is the equivalent of being 'hurt').
All in all it was a good day and I'm feeling excited about my first residential the weekend after next.