Camping with kids

Get the kids off their mobiles and into Doha’s great outdoors Discuss this article

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It’s not uncommon for young people to want to spend their free time indoors on mobile phones instead of appreciate Doha’s nature. However, getting children out into nature is not just fun, but also vital to their individual development. Over the past few years, teachers in schools have been working tirelessly to establish outdoor education programmes. This month, we chat with Chantal Theron, the principal of the lower school at ACS Doha International School, about how the school is contributing to this new drift in a big way. ACS Doha International School is a co-ed, day school for ages three to 18, offering Early Years Foundation, US-based curriculum and the IB MYP and IB Diploma.

Theron was approached three years ago by an outdoor adventure company based in Qatar, called Blue Pearl Camps. “They were interested in partnering with us to run outdoor adventures for children in Qatar. I’m a huge fan of camping and the outdoors myself, so naturally, I was really interested,” she says. “We worked together to organise some small-scale camping trips for students at ACS Doha, led by qualified camp leaders.” The trips were a hit with students and parents, which led them to develop bigger programmes over time to offer a range of short and long camping trips for students of all ages.

Camp activities
Things to do at camp differ and depend on the age of the participating students. For children aged between six and seven, it’s usually a one-night camp on a five-star hotel beach with team games, bonfire storytelling and some simple bush craft. For kids aged nine and ten, it’s three nights camping by Sealine Beach with more advanced activities like fire building, trap-making, kayaking and bouldering. “Our approach is to first introduce the children to the basic skills of camping and being in the outdoors and then build on these gradually,” she says. The students love the camping trips, according to her. “I think what they enjoy most is being taken out of their day-to-day lives, which are mostly spent indoors, and getting into a new, natural environment to try and learn new things. It seems to have a big impact on their confidence and sense of independence.” Interestingly, she’s noticed that most children who struggle with sitting indoors in a classroom usually thrive in an outdoor environment.

Camping in Qatar
Qatar has an incredible coastline and more diversity than you’d expect from a desert country. There are mangroves, amazing beaches and a huge variety of native flora and fauna. Theron reveals Zekreet Nature Reserve is her most favourite. “It’s good for first-time campers and you don’t need a 4x4 to get there. The Inland Sea is a great spot for swimming and dune bashing before bedding down for the night – I always enjoy camping there with my friends and family. Finally, there’s a spot on the Um Bab way in the south of Qatar. Drive down far enough and you’ll find a great camp there with showers, toilets and barbecue facilities. It’s one of Qatar’s best-kept secrets,” she says.

Simple rules
The best time of the year to go camping is now but there are rules to note. Theron explains, “First, make sure your car is ready. Fill it up with petrol, make sure it has enough electricity and if you’re going to be driving on the sand, make sure that you deflate your tyres. Second, take lots of water. It sounds obvious but I’m always seeing other campers bring too little. Another thing I see people forget to bring is lighting – your iPhone torchlight isn’t enough! I’d also advise both adults and children to be aware of some of the wildlife they will encounter like snakes, scorpions and jellyfish. If you know what to do if you encounter them, you will be a lot safer. Finally, don’t leave litter behind when you leave. The eco-system in Qatar is incredibly fragile and we need to act responsibly to protect it.”

ACS Doha International School plans to get more schools involved in this scheme. “We will soon be the first school to run a camping trip to Banana Island,” she concludes.
For more information call 3026 6800 or visit www.acs-schools.com/acs-doha.


Time Out Doha,

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