The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (@DofE) reveals the more unusual, unexpected, and unique ways you can strike gold! 

What do rocket making, circus performing, mini-bus maintenance, magic and beekeeping have in common? 

The answer is that they are among the top ten more unusual, unexpected, or simply unique activities chosen by young people for their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. 

The charity has revealed that these are just some of hundreds of different activities that young people have undertaken as part of their DofE. It hopes that publishing its top ten will inspire 14 to 24-year-olds to start their own DofE journey this autumn, knowing they can follow their passions and tailor their DofE experience to their own personal interests. 

Ruth Marvel, DofE CEO said: 

“After all the disruption, dislocation and lost learning young people have experienced over the last 18 months, helping them to recover and rebuild is vital. During the pandemic we’ve seen how DofE has helped young people stay positive, active and connected and follow their passions, no matter how unusual. As we start the new school year, we want all young people to have the opportunities DofE offers, to explore who they are and discover their own unique talents.  

“Our message is simple: you can follow your passions and find new ones through the DofE – and in doing so build the self-belief and resilience that will help you deal with whatever life throws your way.” 

The top ten list of activities also includes snail farming, pigeon breeding, carnivorous plant cultivation, reptile keeping and bhangra dancing.  

They show that almost anything is possible, along with the more popular activities young people choose to do. In the past year more than half (56%) of volunteering activities were helping people in need, litter-picking and helping children. Seven in ten participants (72%) chose cooking, playing an instrument or first aid as a skill they wanted to develop, and almost half (46%) chose walking, football or keep fit for their physical activity. 

15-year-old Chloe, from Clackmannanshire, Scotland, learned how to maintain the school minibuses for her DofE skill. 

“I enjoyed working under the bonnet and learning new things. It’s great to have learned so much because if your car breaks down you know what to do!” she explained. 

“I wouldn’t have done it had it not been for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, but it’s a great thing to put on my university application and it will help me in later life. It’s amazing that you are not really limited to any skill or activity. You can do anything as long as you improve in it,” she added. 

Misha from Norfolk did circus skills. She had already started to learn trapeze, juggling, tightwire and hula hoops so was delighted when she discovered she could develop them as part of her DofE. 

Misha said:

“Doing my circus skills for DofE has helped me really improve. Though I have been doing it a long time, I am constantly learning. My tutors are very supportive and help me to overcome my fears as some disciplines can be rather nerve-wracking.” 

The charity is aiming to engage, inspire, and empower over one million young people through DofE over the next five years through its Youth Without Limits strategy. Those interested in doing DofE can ask their school, college or university, join a national youth group such as the Scouts or Girlguiding or get in touch with their local youth club and see if it runs DofE, or visit DofE.org. 

The top ten unusual, unexpected, and unique DofE activities are: 

  • rocket making
  • circus performing
  • reptile keeping
  • mini-bus maintenance
  • beekeeping
  • snail farming
  • pigeon breeding
  • carnivorous plant cultivation 
  • magic
  • bhangra dancing 

Case Studies: 

Rocket making: 

Olivia Smith found doing her Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver Award was quite literally a blast! She joined the rocket club at Worthing College and was soon helping to design and build a craft to launch into the sky. 

“I’ve always loved science but never done anything like making a rocket before. I’m more biology than physics but it was fun to do something I’ve not tried, to give it a go and learn something. I probably wouldn’t have joined the club if I hadn’t been looking for a new skill for DofE,” explained Olivia, now 19. 

“I guess rocket making is quite an unusual thing to put on your DofE Skills but it can be hard to find something that isn’t sporty and can be assessed. You have to think outside the box and really look at what is available to you.”  

Olivia added: “DofE is not just for sporty kids or musical kids, it’s a lot more inclusive than that and it really gives people the opportunity to get involved whatever their interests.” 

Magic: 

Arsh Shaikh from London has loved illusions since he was a small boy and had always wanted to find out how they were done. He says discovering that he could learn tricks as part of his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was “just magic.” 

“During my final year at Leyton Sixth Form College I was determined to learn magic to perform for friends and at events, so I joined the Magic Society and I thought it would also be a perfect skill to do for my DofE,” explained Arsh, now 23, who, having gained his Bronze and Silver awards, is in the final stages of completing his Gold. 

He added: “Learning magic was not easy as you have to dedicate time to learn and keep polishing your performance, but it was so worth it. It's cool and fun! The reaction of the audience is what I really like as it helps people forget about their worries and instead be amazed by the trick being performed.” 

Reptile Keeping: 

When 15-year-old Archie says he likes a good adder, he’s not talking about Maths’ skills. The Telford schoolboy is into snakes, and he’s been able to put his skills and his love of all things Reptile to good use by using them as an activity to help him gain his Bronze DofE award. 

As a good all-round sportsman, Archie had no trouble completing the physical part of the DofE challenge, but it was only after volunteering to work at his local Zoo that he knew what to do for the skills section. 

 “I’d never really thought of doing anything like animal care before, but the DofE motivated me and I’m still motivated. I’d always liked going to zoos, but I would have never thought about working with the animals and I really enjoy it. The snakes are my favourite, they’re just fascinating, I could stand there all day and watch them,” explained Archie. 

 “I’d say to anyone thinking of DofE, do some research before you pick what you do for your challenges because it’s not just about sport and music. There are so many exciting opportunities to learn new things, don’t write anything off.” 

Bhangra: 

When Baljodh Singh, from Birmingham, signed up for his DofE he wanted to learn new skills and challenge himself but found the awards gave him so much more, becoming the first step to a wealth of opportunities and helping him forge an unexpected link with his culture and country of his birth.  

“I was born in India and came to the UK 10 years ago. I discovered a Bhangra class near me, and it really appealed because its background is Punjabi which felt like a good connection with my culture and religion,” said 20-year-old Baljodh. 

“I started doing it at school on Friday nights and really enjoyed it. I’d just begun my DofE Gold so I could do it as my Physical and then the manager wanted me to join the team - we have different teams that perform at weddings and festivals, and I’ve been all over the UK. 

Baljodh added: “I’m an academic person really and was always very focused on studying so DofE helped me have something away from studying, activities that are social, fun but still teaching me.”  

“The DofE is about life lessons and one of the biggest for me was stepping out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do something like Punjabi or cadets and now I come back and help others. The learning is endless, one thing leads to another and another and these are all skills that you take with you through life.”  

Mini-bus Maintenance: 

15-year-old Chloe, from Clackmannanshire in Scotland, learned how to maintain the school minibuses for her DofE skill. “I enjoyed working under the bonnet and learning new things. It’s great to have learned so much because if your car breaks down you know what to do!” explained Chloe.  

 “I wouldn’t have done it had it not been for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, but it’s a great thing to put on my university application and it will help me in later life. It’s amazing that you are not really limited to any skill or activity. You can do anything as long as you improve on it,” she added.  

Circus skills: 

Misha from Norfolk did circus skills for her Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. She had already started to learn trapeze, juggling, tightwire and hula hoops so was delighted when she discovered she could develop them as part of her DofE. 

Misha said: “Doing my circus skills for DofE has helped me really improve. Though I have been doing it a long time, I am constantly learning. My tutors are very supportive and help me to overcome my fears as some disciplines can be rather nerve-wracking.”  

 

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