Once-in-a-lifetime Falklands trip: A national schools competition

Once-in-a-lifetime Falklands trip: A national schools competition

by Judith Charlton

As part of a national schools competition, we sent seven prize-winners to the Falkland Islands for eight days, during which they engaged with wildlife, learned about conservation and experienced the local way of life.

Read on, to find out more about the competition and this once-in-a-lifetime trip…

A national schools competition

2022 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War.

Dr. Matthew C. Benwell (Newcastle University), Prof. Catriona Pennell (Exeter), and Dr. Alasdair Pinkerton (Royal Holloway) – experts in political geography, history, heritage, commemoration, and youth identity – partnered with the Falkland Islands Government Office (FIGO) to design, deliver, and evaluate a national schools’ competition.

The Falklands Forty Schools Competition (FFSC) was launched in March 2022 by adventurer, broadcaster and writer Ben Fogle and was centred around the question: What do the Falkland Islands mean to you?

It invited young people, resident in the UK and aged between 16 and 18 years old, to share their creative stories, research, and insights into the history, geography, culture, people, or environment of the Falkland Islands in the form of essays or stories, posters, podcasts, or short films. Submissions were received from students of all backgrounds attending different types of schools from across the UK.

Finding out about the Falklands

The Falklands Forty Schools Competition website presented a plethora of information about the contemporary Falklands in the form of images, podcasts, videos, and links to other useful resources. This was an important starting point for young people to learn more about the Islands’ identity, culture, way of life and environment.

While some of these resources referred to the past through remembrance and commemorative resources related to the 1982 Falklands War, many were focused on ‘Looking Forward at Forty’, giving the UK’s younger generation an insight into the modern, self-determining Falkland Islands.

The quality of the competition entries submitted demonstrated the extensive, in-depth research that young people undertook, going well beyond the resources provided on the FFSC website in many cases. These focused on a diverse range of topics related to life in the Falklands including sustainability and the environment, linguistics and culture, geology, biodiversity, military history, as well as some entrant’s personal connections to the Falklands. The entries explored a wide range of creative formats including poetry, photo essay, animation, video, creative writing, and art.

A once-in-a-lifetime trip

The judging and interview panels eventually selected seven prize-winners who then had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the Falkland Islands to take part in an eight-day visit with a comprehensive itinerary. This gave the young people the chance to engage first-hand with the identity, culture, way of life and environment of the place they had researched from a distance.

The programme gave the lucky prize-winners insights into the Islands’ rich biodiversity, featuring a trip to Sea Lion Island where they viewed sea elephants, sea lions and rockhopper penguins. They learnt about conservation initiatives, trying their hand at counting penguins (easier said than done!) and visited a farm to find out about agriculture on the islands and to have a go at sheep shearing.

The prize-winners also found out more about domestic politics and international geopolitical challenges through their meetings with Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands and a visit to Government House to meet the Deputy Governor. Other activities gave them insights into fisheries and resource management, heritage curation and environmental research, as well as the chance to flavour some of the cultural activities on offer in the City of Stanley via their participation in a dancing class.

Leaving a legacy

The opportunity to visit the Falklands left an indelible impression on the young prize-winners. Many of the young people are highly concerned about issues related to the environment, climate change, sustainability and biodiversity, and the Falklands proved to be fertile ground to deepen these interests. These experiences, alongside many others, will provide the basis for disseminating inspiring and informed stories about the Falklands to different audiences in the UK.

Upon return, most of the young people presented school assemblies and talks for local interest groups in their areas. Next, the young people will create a piece of storytelling that will portray their Falklands’ experience in various mediums (e.g., animation, creative writing, podcast and so on). Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the young people involved in the FFSC have been sharing and talking about their adventures in the Islands with friends, family, teachers and other people they’ve encountered since returning.

Youth, British Overseas Territories and the future

The academic researchers are particularly interested in what young people in the UK know and think about British Overseas Territories like the Falkland Islands, and gathered questionnaire, interview and focus group data throughout the competition’s duration.

This offered a unique opportunity to explore what young people thought of the Falklands before arrival, as well as to chart their changing perspectives as the week unfolded. The analysis of this data will be used in their forthcoming academic papers and will help them to apply for further grants and opportunities in the future.