By Eunice Chong

With this new school year comes the advent of a program known as the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award – Canada (“Duke of Ed”) at Mowat CI.

The award allows participants aged 14 to 24 to achieve personally established goals in the areas of community service, skill development and physical recreation, as well as an adventurous journey in order to meet the conditions of the Bronze, Silver or Gold Award. It is a new concept for most students at Mowat but one with a 60-year history over a total of 143 countries.

While it is not necessary to be enrolled in a school for the Duke of Ed, the Mowat school council decided last year to incorporate the program requirements into the school year for Grade 9 students, beginning this year.

Requirements include logging an average of one hour per week over a period of three months towards the three categories. The first category, community service, is familiar to most high school students as it is also a requirement for graduation. Outside volunteering can be supplemented by hours put into school clubs such as Me to We, Peer Tutors and SAC (Student Council).

Students can develop their creative or personal skills through activities such as music lessons, sports officiating, photography, gardening and languages. Mowat has facilitated this area of the program by inserting two 20-minute blocks into the weekly timetable to allow for skill development time. In addition, time spent participating in school clubs such as Yearbook, Misprints, French Club and Welding Club qualifies towards their requirement.

One benefit of the award is that students can get a tangible achievement out of an activity they are already participating in outside of school. This applies especially in the area of physical recreation, where students can log the hours that they spend in rep or recreational sports. In-school opportunities include use of the weight room in the mornings and evenings, intramural sports and varsity teams.

Upon completion of 13 consecutive weeks of volunteering, skill development and athletics, students must choose one area to develop further for another three months. In addition, students must train for and undertake an adventurous journey. Camping, sailing, kayaking and cycling all qualify as examples of expeditions. Each expedition consists of a training day, a practice journey and a two-day, one-night camping experience. Students at Mowat have the choice of attending either a canoeing or hiking trip, both taking place twice a year. Mowat teachers supervise and participate in training and journeys with their students.

Fulfillment of these conditions results in qualification for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Bronze Award, which is expected to be the starting goal for most Mowat students. The administration expects that all Grade 9 students will complete their Bronze Award requirements by the end of the school year.

Margaret, a Grade 9 student, says, “One of my favourite parts about the program is that we have a layout of what we do but the activities are customizable.” She plans to fulfill her Duke of Ed requirements by tutoring younger children, continuing her piano and violin lessons, and trying out for varsity rugby and swim team. “Most of the Edinburgh things would have been on my schedule with or without the program,” she explains.

Beyond the interests of self-exploration, community involvement and physical fitness, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has far-reaching benefits as it is highly regarded by employers and postsecondary institutions. Students with higher Duke of Ed ambitions can continue in the program to the Silver and Gold Awards, which require more time and commitments.

Serena, a Grade 12 student at Mowat who completed her Bronze Award in June, noted, “For me, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was not just a resumé booster but also an opportunity to push myself to stay active in my community.

“I believe that the largest reward for me was that the program helped me set aside time for activities I truly enjoyed, such as tutoring and going to club meetings,” she said. “I would highly recommend that all new Mowat students participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and hopefully get to reap all the benefits that it entails!”

Eunice Chong is a Grade 12 student at Sir Oliver Mowat CI who is enthusiastic about English, chemistry and dragon boating. She also plays soccer and field hockey, and co-edits the school newspaper.