In 2006, Dawn Waugh, a primary teacher from Hutchesons' Grammar School in Glasgow began to develop an award scheme to help children to become independent learners. Since she began teaching in 1994, she had noticed that children depended on their teachers and parents for simple tasks they could have done for themselves. She felt they needed to be encouraged to learn to do things on their own.
Having loved earning badges as a Brownie then later as a Guide and completing her Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award, she started thinking about simple life skills children should be able to do and began to make up lists. By the end of the summer holiday of 2007, she had 40 challenges and created four progressive booklets. The booklets contained challenges which develop important life skills. These skills included First Aid, swimming, cookery, domestic tasks, public speaking, caring for others and puncture repair etc. Many of the challenges from 2007 still remain, but many have been replaced or have morphed slightly over the years. She makes changes to the booklets each year.
The Award Scheme is inclusive; whilst high achievers may take on the award as an extra challenge to push their knowledge and skill base even further, those who perhaps have more practical strengths strive to finish the award taking great pride in its completion. It is something exciting and different from normal school work.
Each child chooses seven out of the ten challenges in each of the booklets. When a child completes their seven selected tasks, at the nearest possible assembly, he or she is awarded a certificate and badge and gains 'House Points'. The final level is harder than the rest and the children's efforts are rewarded with a garden party, where they are presented with their certificates. The presentation is carried out by the award patron, Gordon Bulloch, a former pupil of the school and former Captain for the Scotland and British and Irish Lions' rugby teams.
Since its inception, the award has developed further to include a Mini Duke Award for children in Year 1 and 2. Life skills at this age include learning the safety rules of an open campfire and toasting marshmallows, washing a car, climbing a hill carrying their own rucksack, polishing their shoes, making a sandwich, reading Scottish literature, playing Monopoly or chess and much more.
We sometimes find it difficult to remember to give children the time and space to develop their independence through simple life skills - sometimes we are too busy and just need to get things done! The Junior Duke and Mini Duke Awards give the children this time and space to explore and develop their independence. There has been positive feedback from countless parents about the award challenges. Often, they are pleasantly surprised when they realise that their children are old enough to understand the intricacies of chess or to wash their sheets or to hike up a hill, and they feel that their eyes have been opened. Furthermore, parents have seen there is now much more scope for exciting family activities and adventures!