SC Trekking component
The first part of Spartan Challenge, the trekking element have been completed. The 4 day 3 nights trekking trip around Lashihai is one of the most scenic treks around Yunnan, with an abundance of wildlife, flowers, mushrooms and other edible plant matters. The students experienced one of the most authentic mountain experience, understanding what life is like living and surviving in a high altitude environment and tackling some very challenging terrain. An added bonus was living and experiencing the life of the Yi (彝族)people, a mountainous tribe who migrated south from Sichuan during the early 50s to escape the ruthless mountain robbers active during that period. A particularly welcoming village received us in their most traditional clothing and sang and danced with us. A great way to wrap up a challenging day trekking in the mountains.
Spartan Challenge is a progressive experiential education program, students are incrementally guided to discover their true selves and cultivate their latent leadership qualities. The trekking element is designed to take them out of their comfort zone and making them realize the power of teamwork. To quote Andrew Carnegie, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” The first day was to instill discipline through the necessity of time management. An appropriate punishment of a rather distasteful variety, in the form of toilet digging was given to anyone who was not on time. Luckily such punishment were rarely dished out as students themselves realized the intrinsic value of managing their time appropriately.
In such an environment we witness the bonds of friendship getting ever tighter, team dynamics getting ever smoother, delegation of responsibilities done in the most efficient manner. Even some of the more reserved students have stood up to organically take on a leadership role. Our trainers juxtapose an affable yet highly disciplinary approach to garner such results without having to repeatedly tell students what to do. The goal is to bring out their intrinsic qualities without overt force. Such is the value of Zen Quest style experiential education, it lies in the facilitation of learning instead of directly imparting knowledge, it is active learning that utilizes all 8 multiple intelligences as hypothesized by Dr. Gardener. It leaves a much stronger impression on students, and most would look back in this unique experience with pride and different perspectives as they progress in life.
The second element during the trek was for them to truly experience what life is like for people living in the mountains. Many of the luxuries that they take for granted were stripped away, and at once most were reminded of the power of nature and their own minute status in comparison to it. During the expedition a couple of naive questions were levelled at our staffs: “Are there toilet papers in the toilet that we have dug?” “Where is the washing machine (in a mountain village), when confronted by local rascals demanding us money for staying on land that wasn’t even theirs, we heard “don’t they respect the law?” Indeed all situations were resolved by our experienced team, the value of this lies in the stark contrast between the simplicities of village life to that of the luxuries of city life. By spending a prolonged period in the wilds students are reminded of how lucky they truly are.
The third element is cooking in the wilds, preparing meals and sharing them amongst all the teams and staff. Most commented that they rarely cooked at home, and being in the outdoors pushed them to be innovational, using local ingredients which were approved by our local guides and staff and food they prepared before embarking on the trek, I can truly say that most have created gourmet meals that even some restaurant would be proud of.
We have just arrived in Shaxi to conduct the second part of our expedition, community service and drama in a local Bai Zhu 白族 village named Shaxi (沙溪). This is designed for them to take what they have learnt in the mountains and transfer such skills to other arenas. The compartmentalization of knowledge have been acknowledged as a big problem in education, this is designed to make such skills more transferrable and fluid. We will be sending a detailed update again in 2 days!
The ZQ Team