Enhanced understanding of syllabus
Many students going on an Operation Wallacea expedition are likely to be studying Biology or Geography at A level or the equivalent. A significant amount of what is being learnt at A level can be experienced first-hand whilst on an expedition and the Opwall office can show you which topics in each of the main examining boards for England and Wales (AQA, EdExcel Salters, OCR, WJEC), Northern Ireland (CCEA) and Scottish Highers (SQA) for Biology and Geography are covered in an Opwall expedition. Students will experience these topics when they become involved in collecting data, observing scientists at work and following a series of ‘activity’ lectures and an appropriate ecological course specific to each country.
One section of many courses requires the student to experience field sampling techniques such as those using transecting methods and quadrats. All of the research sites employ such methods and it is an ideal opportunity to experience these methods first-hand and really appreciate the importance of gathering such important data: it is genuinely an example of ‘How Science Works’.
Experience has shown that those studying other subjects also benefit greatly from the experience and you do not necessarily have to be a ‘scientist’ to go on an expedition. At many of the sites the students have the chance to practice foreign languages (e.g. Spanish, Portuguese, French).
Research qualifications and additional qualifications
Many schools are now offering their students the chance to submit further research qualifications such as the Extended Essay Qualification (EPQ) which is now available from an increasing number examining boards (AQA, OCR, Pre-U, WJEC etc). These qualifications are worth up to 70 extra UCAS points and are designed to support students with their transition to higher education or into the world of work.
The are many similarities between the examination boards although and there are many options available to teachers and students but all involve an in-depth study by the student in which they will develop and apply skills creatively and result (for a Science student) in a dissertation or an Investigation. Student must work independently and largely self-directed although most schools should provide 120 Guided Learning hours (edexcel). The EPQ is assessed by producing a research report of 5,000 words and/or a presentation.
Going on an Opwall Expedition can be a great place to undertake such a venture although the dissertation style EPQ is better suited than an in depth personal investigation (see more about how this might work in the EPQ section)
An increasing number of schools are adopting the IB (International Baccalaureate) course and within this award are the Extended Essay (EE) and Creativity, Action and Service components (CAS). Experience with other schools has shown that a student can contribute confidently towards these important components whilst taking part in an expedition.
Also within the IB Award is the practical scheme of work (PSOW) which is the practical course planned by the science teacher and acts as a summary of all the investigations carried out by the candidate. Students whilst on expedition will take part in practical work and these could contribute significantly towards their IB Internal Assessment for IB Biology. The appropriate expedition booklet outlines the practicals that they will be involved with.
IB Science students must complete a Group 4 project as part of their required IB Group 4 (Science) practical program. The Group 4 project involves a team of 6-8 students, is multidisciplinary with a strong emphasis on team work, sharing ideas and cooperation. The project requires about 10 hours of involvement time.
Some recent enquires from IB teachers going on an Opwall Expedition believe that it would be an ideal opportunity to carry out their Group 4 project. It could for instance work particularly well during their dive week where students get into groups to discuss key topics based around their lectures such as marine plastics, shark finning and threats to coral reefs: they read any appropriate literature and then present on it at the end of their week. Each site will have a different ‘suite’ of lectures and please refer to the appropriate school booklet.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Duke of Edinburgh Award
Whilst Operation Wallacea is not an accredited provider for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, we are however strong supporters of all levels and do all we can to help assist students with components of their awards across our expedition sites.
Some suggestions for adding value to your Opwall expedition with DofE.
As Operation Wallacea expeditions run for 1 and 2 weeks, you can use a part of the expedition to fulfil the 3 day residential requirement. If you’d like to check if your expedition can apply for residential, you can view Duke of Edinburgh’s checklist here.
If diving is part of your expedition you can work towards the skill component by preparing and working towards you open water qualification throughout your expedition run up time. Using theory training, confined dives and also the exam.
As we are not experts on the Duke of Edinburgh award please contact us if you feel some other parts of the expedition could be used, we are happy to work with yourselves and schools to ensure you gain as much from your trip as possible.
There are additional research related qualifications that can be obtained partly or wholly by participating in an Opwall expedition and a few examples are given below. If you would like to do any of these additional qualifications then your school needs to organise a visit by an Opwall representative to go through the requirements of the various schemes before making a final decision.
University applications and interviews
One of the best uses of the expeditions is to enhance a student’s application for university entry. In the UK, every potential university student has to write a UCAS Personal Statement as part of the UCAS process and this is quite often followed up by a university entrance interview. Many students will be able to relate their experiences gained on the field research programme and working alongside academics and this will be something that makes them stand out from other similarly qualified students.
Elise Damstra, who came out with us in 2011 as part of a Sevenoaks school expedition to Madagascar, is a great proof of this. She won the Norwegian Young Scientist essay competition for her extended essay about the work that was done during her time there – the prize included £1000, an all expenses paid trip to Bratislava for the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, and a place at the Stockholm Youth Science Seminar that includes a seat at the Nobel Prize ceremony.