The Lower 6th core weekend has evolved over recent years into an action-packed three days of immersive activities to kick-start both the IB and the Sixth Form experience at MCM. The challenge of taking 83 new Sixth Formers away on the first weekend of the year requires careful planning and consideration.
The purpose of the trip is for our new IB pupils to get to know some of the Sixth Form staff team and each other a little better, and also to get acquainted with two of the core elements of the IB, namely the CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service) and TOK (Theory of Knowledge) programmes. Both of these core elements, along with the extended essay (EE) are required for an IB Diploma pass, and as such it is vital that our pupils both understand and ‘buy in’ to these interesting and rewarding aspects of the Diploma.
Of course, there has to be room for some fun, which means that the beach-side location of Desaru is an absolute must. Alongside the aforementioned CAS and TOK introductions, a series of team-building challenges and adventure trips were added to the mix. First off, our pupils were treated to a fascinating lecture by a local guide about the ecological importance of the local mangroves, followed by a trip downriver to a local mangrove nursery, where they had the chance to plant some young saplings, ready to be re-planted in a few months’ time in areas that are in need of support. This was followed by a challenging jungle trek up to the top a local hill, where we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Johor Straits.
What worked so well was that these trips then became the first CAS activities for our pupils, and once back in the hotel, they were expertly guided by Mr Fuller to reflect on their experiences, and then create their first reviews using our online IB management portal, Managebac. This process can be confusing at first, so to be able to take part in and review up to four activities over the weekend gave our pupils a terrific head start on their CAS journey. Alongside this, Mr Tapp and Mrs Swift gave highly interesting and informative talks on TOK and how it can become an essential part of their learning. TOK is not always immediately grasped, so to be able to explain it in an unhurried and relaxed setting can make all the difference to a newly minted IB pupil.
Once the hard work is out of the way, the traditional karaoke contest is a perennial favourite. Dr Tomlinson and Mr Fuller led by example and were first up… ably followed by a series of brave contenders, not least of which was the Gallic rap duo of Arthur and Hadrien.
On Sunday, our team building activities were rounded off with the much-anticipated raft building challenge. Split into teams, our marooned survivors were tasked with building a rescue raft from limited supplies and rescue as many lost souls as they could. As it turned out, the simpler and smaller rafts were more successful than the bulkier, sturdier ones… this was voted the outright favourite activity and one that we will eagerly look forward to next time.
The weekend was a resounding success, and the feedback from the pupils (via a google form of course!) very much concurred. My deepest thanks go to Marc Ee and his team from SD Adventures, Dr Tomlinson, Mr Fuller, Mr Tapp, Mrs Swift, Ms Wilson and Ms Saunders for their enthusiasm and commitment throughout what was an exhausting but ultimately hugely rewarding experience.