Discover yourself with Stone & District U3A

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Amongst the abundant and wide-ranging activities on offer with Stone U3A, one is particularly distinctive and unusual in a number of ways. The “Discovery Award”, which operates on similar lines to the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme but is open only to those in the 50+ age group, targets the attainment of bronze, silver and gold levels in a personalised quest.

The four-part process encourages people to maximise their contribution to the local community whilst also stimulating new hobbies and recreational pursuits or the development of existing ones — along the way, self-growth seems certain to occur. Examples of challenges undertaken include voluntary work, flower arranging, tai chi, baking and decorating cakes, joining a choir, losing weight – the list is endless. There has even been a detailed study of scarecrows emphasising the fact that more light-hearted topics are perfectly welcome!

A central feature of the non-competitive scheme is a section called

“The Journey of Discovery” which can be an actual expedition or an academic adventure of some kind. For example, one member has just returned from walking an 80-mile section of the Great Wall of China whilst another researched her family history. No limitations are imposed concerning physical fitness or disability of any kind.

Cross fertilisation with other U3A groups sometimes happens. Though now targeting higher level awards, Mary Howes got to grips with the work of Augustus Pugin whilst gaining her bronze status. On hearing about this, the Philosophy group (known as “Modern Wisdom & Cake”) invited Mary to talk to them about the architect’s life and times and, subsequently, she then arranged a visit to St Giles Church in Cheadle.

This took place recently and was a great success. Mary arranged for local guide and Pugin aficionado John Smith from Tean to show the group around the church and surrounding area. He proved to be a real enthusiast with extensive local knowledge and numerous anecdotes about the edifice which is considered to be the most complete expression of what Pugin believed a church should be.

The Discovery group itself currently has 17 members working on their individual challenges but there are plenty of vacancies for those wishing to take up the challenge. Meetings take place periodically, sometimes in conjunction with the U3A Coffee Morning held at Stone Station on the last Friday morning of each month. These gatherings are voluntary and largely happen to provide advice, support and social contact. For further information, get in touch with facilitator Mary Bull by email at marybull@madasafish.com

Full details of all groups, events and activities can also be found on the U3A website: www.stoneu3a.btck.co.uk