Lately, NAPLAN has been the focus of everyone’s attention. The stress and hype of it all, makes it feel like no school is doing enough to make the grade! Suddenly people start to think that more time in a classroom equates to greater results for the school! But what if your results need to be the social and emotional development of students?
What’s the point of having a cohort of super intelligent and well educated doctors who have the bedside manner of a pathologist? If this is the case, they’re not going to be very successful doctors, although might make great pathologists.
This is where outdoor education becomes vitally important as part of any school’s overall program. Many schools have outdoor education as a bit of a token gesture, maybe just for an annual year level camp. More often than not, they also get someone else to run it for them. The problem with this is the fact that activities in isolation don't add up to the long-term benefit that a well-structured outdoor ed program can deliver and it's these long-term benefits that make all the difference to the overall educational experience for the students.
An increasingly significant problem for educators is to be able to provide students with a dynamic skill set to tackle a rapidly transforming world and the challenges that come with this. Students today are being told that on average, they’ll change careers 8-10 times in their life. This can be unsettling for even the strongest of people and therefore needs to be effectively addressed.
This is where outdoor education becomes so important. Forget about the specific activities for a moment. Worrying about this can be a distraction from the wider picture, so instead think about what social and emotional goals you want for your students. Be specific about this, as focusing on key areas will make all the difference to the success of your program. Being able to equip students with the ability to adapt and be resilient when facing challenges can help them thrive in an ever-changing world.
Do you want doctors with good bedside manner? Do you want trades people who can run their own enterprises? Do you want kids to grow up to be honest, responsible, functional members of society? Any school can get an academic result. Yet producing independent, innovative and compassionate young men and women is far more difficult for educators to achieve. Without this skill set, many students will find it near impossible to thrive in the ever-changing world in which we’re now living.
Outdoor education is not just about having a fun camp away from home. It’s to challenge students, to expand their horizons and their understanding of each other and the world. It’s to push them right outside their comfort zones. It's not until we begin to feel uncomfortable about something new, that we actually start to develop and grow as individuals. It's this social and emotional growth that can be achieved through outdoor education that becomes invaluable to the child’s overall experience. The more they're given real opportunities to deal with living and working with others, then reflecting on their own life experiences, the more balanced and resilient they can be. Outdoor education is now more important than ever to bridge that gap between the academic world and all the challenges that life brings in the many years to come.