A school trip to Serre Chevalier, French Alps

Dartford Grammar School has been travelling to the Alps for more than a decade, with the intention of providing our sixth formers’ with a consummate location in which to conduct investigations for their Geography coursework.

In the International Baccalaureate Geography course, the Hautes-Alpes is the perfect region which supplies our students with the ability to explore all areas of the course and to collect enough data for their chosen topics: Freshwater, Extreme Environments, Leisure and Tourism etc.

Day one

As soon as we arrived, we immediately assigned students’ to their respective rooms so that we could embark on our fieldwork in Villeneuve without further delay. The Year 12 students were immaculate in their approach to undertaking valley transects and land use mapping, much owed to the practice of leading them out of the hotel and teaching them in the open valley. Inevitably, the students learnt some vital observational skills which will be crucial for when certain students conduct their ‘tourism investigations’.

After a well-earned rest and wash, the DGS group retired for an evening meal, followed by a session of teaching and learning. We led the proceedings in guiding students through: an introduction to the Alps and the local area; an analysis of the valley transects relating to ubac and adret slopes; and tourism in the alps. Hotel doors shut and lights out early tonight in anticipation of a big day ahead of us consisting of a visit to the River Guisane for the student’s ‘river investigations’.

Day two

It was an early start for all staff and students as breakfast was soon followed by packing our bags and getting ready to leave for the Mountain tops. We departed from Serre Chevalier, the town in which the DGS hotel is based, and headed for the source of the River Guisane.

The teachers helped introduce the local valley area and gave the students a physical demonstration of all of the new techniques and equipment they would be utilising to collect data. For the river investigation, students were shown how to measure the gradient, width, depth, and velocity of a river.

The students showed vast amounts of enthusiasm and were clearly keen to get started in their groups. The teachers were merely on standby at that point as the students took over and immediately got to grips with the task at hand.

The journey of our trip down the course of the river would consist of visiting 7 sites (1 more than originally planned): from the source where water trickled out from the scree slope, into a ‘braided river channel’ where the valley opened wide, down over a waterfall as we followed over a ‘hanging valley’, and then progressed along the middle course of the river. The students will later revisit the River Guisane to collect more data in the week if they choose to do so for their investigations.

Despite possessing safety equipment, such as a ‘throw line’ in case any student lost their footing in the river due to the sheer force of the flow, none of the teachers were called into action. This is a clear demonstration of the carefulness and courageousness that DGS students possess.

Day three