For those of you unfamiliar with this particular discipline I think this photo sums up via ferrata pretty well. As you can see it's basically baby mountaineering, or hanging about on a cliff-face holding on to a (cold) metal rung or two.
I'm lucky enough to work in a school with a pretty cool head who feels, as I do, that kids learn an awful lot from sporting and cultural challenges, as well as in classrooms.
I also happen to be one of few teachers who volunteer for this kind of escapade (wonder why?) ,I really enjoy getting to know the pupils outside of the classroom - there's less marking too. Saying that, I did kindly let a colleague replace me on the potholing trip, I draw the line at spending my last hours stuck in a tunnel with year 9.
So, back to the via ferrata, picture a bus trip to nearby mountains, singing and picnic during trip, followed by meeting our guides and getting strapped into some pretty tight corset-like equipment.
We usually take about twenty/thirty kids, the head goes first, with the guides taking various groups and yours truly bringing up the rear. This means a couple of things, firstly I get to hang there, on a ladder attached to the side of the mountain, with the wind whistling around me while everyone takes it in turn to shuffle onwards and upwards.
I also have the task of dealing with the physically and psychologically reticent amongst out pupils. Experience has shown that it's not usually the shy younger girl who gets scared but the loud bravado who'd been showing off throughout the whole bus trip.
Sometimes we manage to talk them through it, and they are so proud (and rightly so, it's not easy!) of their feat. Not always though. Kids are often used to having most things done for them, and it's fascinating to put them in a situation where they really have to do it for themselves, we can't carry them through this ( although I have seen a guide take a couple back down on his back, but not at the same time!).
If you want to have a look at some of the other activities we organise you can check out the school's site, it's public anyway.
Obviously the best thing about these activities (apart from getting out of an afternoon of lessons) is how alive you feel when you finish.