Duke of Edinburgh

Duke of Edinburgh

Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of activities for anyone aged 14 to 24. It gives our students the opportunity to experience new activities and develop skills. Students create their own DofE programme by choosing a physical, skills and volunteering activity and then the other compulsory part is to go on an expedition.

Students receive training in camp craft, equipment and hygiene, food and cooking, first aid and emergency procedures, navigation and route planning. They are also taught how to care for the environment. Team building and leadership skills are developed during the course of the training.

Training for the adventurous journey is done on the school premises. During the past few months our students have completed their training sessions which were led by members of primary and secondary staff and our gold participants.

We also have a Facebook page, where you can keep up to date with our student’s activities. You can find the page HERE.


AAESS was the first school in Al Ain to offer this very prestigious award and course.  To get involved, contact Mrs Nel or Miss Eagles. 


Camp craft:

Elrico de Bruyn, currently a gold award participant was our trainer and showed us how to pitch a tent and pack a rucksack.

Elrico Collage


First aid training:

Elrico is also a medic at the AAA rugby club and shared his knowledge with us. (He is currently in South Africa for his 4 year degree in Physiotherapy.) Here we did some simulations.

First Aid Collage


Menu planning:

Mrs. Sheldon held an afternoon in which we planned our menus for our very first Bronze expedition to the foot of  Jebel Hafeet.

Menu 3



Alexander Nel, also a gold award participant, showed us how to prepare our food and advised us on which foods were most suitable for our expedition.

Cook Collage


GPS training

No maps are currently available of the area in which the practice session is done, for this reason every team had two GPSs. There would be no maps on this journey.

Alex enlightened us on how to use a GPS and program it, the night before we went on our first expedition! What a shock to experience that there was no voice to guide them but only arrows to follow on the GPS. Team 1 set off in the wrong direction and after a kilometre, the staff members decided to chase after them to inform them that they were off course. Staff members are supervisors and it should be done from a distance but an eye is kept on students from different way-points.

GPS Collage



Ms Ralph, now newly-wed and known as Mrs O’Mahony, shared her expertise and we had two afternoon sessions on map work, compass reading skills and bearing etc. This will came in very handy on our assessed journey which was during the weekend of 19 and 20 March 2016. We still needed another two hours of training to ensure that we did not get lost in the desert of Sharjah.

What A route Card should NOT look like:

Orienteering 7



Training in the ORB (online Record Book):

Thanks to Ms Jairath for the use of the ICT lab to update our ORBs. We are focusing on completing our skills, services and physical recreational activities.



After thoughts / post practice expedition:

The expedition started off by the bus dropping us off beside a truck road where our group then started to hike for 4km till the campsite. We set up our tents, unpacked and cooked our dinner. After that we talked and practised navigating, route plan, observation and recording skills which was basically knowing how to use a GPS and a route card. The group also talked about understanding the impact of the journey on the environment and appreciating the culture within the journey’s environment. Later on we discussed how Duke of Edinburgh helps us in later life and with university. At the campfire, before roasting marshmallows, all the participants gave a little presentation regarding the aforementioned topics. The Hiking area was located at the foot of Jebel Hafeet, a mountain bordering the UAE and Oman. Since being by the border it is frequented by border patrol. We found bullets and grenade shells. Despite the harsh dry land, there is wildlife. We found multiple skeletons of camels and birds. There were some plants but mainly Tamarisk trees and shrubs. It was a geological jackpot so to speak. Different layers of stone washed out by the years of occasional but heavy rain. The rain created mini wadis where a couple of our checkpoints were. The easiest way to hike was by walking with people with the same pace as yours so there wouldn’t be anyone left behind. I think my basic objective was to get out of my comfort zone and practice my leadership skills while learning how to behave outside an urban environment and take care of it. I also wanted to test my cooking skills outside a kitchen.  —Borbala Pal




When we started walking, we noticed that most of the landscape was mostly rocky and sandy with some small hills. There were a variety of different plants like weeds, vines and also many watermelon-like plants. Although we didn’t find any animals, we did find camel skulls, camel bones and snake and rabbit holes. There also was a change in weather as during midday it was very hot and sunny, but once the sun set, it became a lot colder along with strong winds. some tents needed support as they had not been fully secured. Although there were many problems during this journey, it was a great experience and it helped us bond with people we didn’t normally hang out with. It also helped us prepare for the real assessed journey and learn what was allowed and what not. This was an enjoyable and new kind of experience for me, as we were put into groups with people we had not worked with a lot, yet we were able to work together really well, with each of us being good at different things. Although it was a tiring hike, we learnt more about each other, and this improved our teammate skills greatly. The journey objectives were to be able to work together in our assigned groups, to take a picture at each checkpoint, to study the environment, to test us on what we had learnt, etc…

It was a new experience, helping us learn about camping and how we could’ve improved on what we brought with us. I will be ready for the final assessed expedition – Roy Hayyat

Our team, team Ling-Ling, had a lot of fun. We learnt new things and experienced many things. It was tiring but we became familiar with working and developing as a team. We felt accomplished and satisfaction each time we reached a checkpoint. We also learned to accept such circumstances such as sleeping on a rocky floor and no washing and no change of clothes. Experienced the outdoor environment, developed self-reliance and independence. Learnt to overcome challenges and obstacles – heat, blisters and the heavy weight of rucksack. Overall, although it was only a practice journey, I enjoyed it a lot and learnt new things and I think it was a great way to prepare for my qualifying expedition.—Ye-Eun Ahn




There are little signs of current existing life. We saw plenty of animal bones and a surprising amount of different plants for a desert. Not even a single thing like a tarantula was seen but it still confirms that life could be supported here for some animals. Our team’s main aim was to identify at least 3 different types of plants in the area and try and spot at least ONE animal of any kind. We also had a side Objective that was to Take a “Selfie” at every single checkpoint. (which we achieved and would take up too much file space to put them all in here) – Stefan Wharwood

Collage 1

Collage 2


We could choose our own team members and had to be between 4 to 7 people in a team.

Team Ling Ling: 

Team Ling Ling



Team 2:

Team 2



Team 3:

Team 3



Team 4:

Team 4



During our expedition:

During Exp Collage

 One year ago: Trekking blog by Mollie Sommerville

Mollie S

—DofE Silver participant

On the 19th of March 2015, we all arrived at school at 6am for our Duke of Edinburgh training weekend. We had to prepare ourselves for the weekend ahead. Our rucksacks were filled with food, water, clothes and first aid essentials so we could last the trip. We headed out to Ras Al Khaimah at about 7 o’ clock. We had a quick stop at ADNOC along the way and three hours later we arrived at the cement factory – the starting point of our journey. We waited for Dubai British School to join up with us.

We were 80 participants in total. We set off in different groups, on our 10 km trek along the rocky roads and mountains of RAK. Many checkpoints, hills and water breaks later, we reached camp on the peak of a mountain, set up our tents and settled down for the night. We woke up the next morning with aching muscles and blisters and we still had TWO more days of long treks to walk.

We made breakfast, prepared our route-cards, and headed off on our second journey. We walked for hours in the blazing sun until we reached our second camp where we once again pitched our tents, cooked our dinner and played countless games of Mafia until we fell asleep. The next morning we headed out early on our last day to trek another 15 km. The scenery was different on the final day. Instead of walking on rocky roads, we passed on sand dunes and through a village. When we finally reached the end, we all collapsed and tried not to fall asleep.

We waited for everyone to get back and headed back on our way to Al Ain.

The trip was a great experience filled with hills, route-cards, checkpoint selfies, songs, games and great memories. Mollie S 2

Thanks to the teachers who accompanied us. The DofE trek was a lot of work but a lot of fun and we look forward to travelling to South Africa this year.


Community service:

Farah and Iqra painting the guesthouse at the Eco Farm.

Community Service














Zoe and the children at Eco Farm in Nepal, overseeing the students who are planting the rice fields.

Zoe Nepal



 Planting rice: for use by the Eco Farm residents

Rice Field Collage



 Walking the students to school

Walk To School



 Reading messages to the children, written by AAESS primary school students, and a      concert afterwards.

Read & Concert Collage



Visiting a school where students go to BEFORE school starts in the morning. Students attend this school to get extra classes in the core subjects.

School Collage


School 2 Collage



Staff members involved in the Duke of Edinburgh International Award:


Mrs Sonja Nel—Coordinator/Assessor/Trainer 




Mrs Melanie Sheldon—Supervisor/Trainer 



Ms Meg Ralph—Supervisor/Trainer



Mrs Charmaine Ebbinkhuysen—Official Photographer



Elrico de Bruyn—Trainer



Alexander Nel—Trainer



We welcome Ms Suzy Eagles, Director of Sport at AAESS, who is the latest member of our team.