Most schools and education systems treat such activities as extracurricular, where students are not required to do them. But, including them in the core curriculum would help the students make the most of these experiences and guide them to learn as much as possible.
Imagine this: you are on a kayak, paddling through the choppy sea, you’ve been at it for last four hours non-stop, trying to get to your next camping spot about 3 kilometers away. There you will have to set up a tent, cook your own food and seek shelter from what looks like a bad storm that’s approaching. This, you will be repeating for the next three days.
Now imagine all of this, but with your middle school teacher and your classmates. You’re spending time together, working together, having a laugh. You have also been learning about marine life, effects of climate change on costal communities and animal cruelty.
Outdoor education – it’s a great learning experience, academic and otherwise, and you get to have a lot of fun! Isn’t that how we all want to learn?!
Learning soft skills is always vital for children, especially in today’s age where social interactions are imperative for everyone to live, work and learn. They aren’t something that can exactly be taught, however, with a level of attention to set the right environment, students will be able to strongly develop these skills while enjoying themselves as well.
Going back to the example of the kayaking trip, having to build a tent from scratch may not seem like a fundamental skill for you to have. But the teamwork that will go in to setting up the tent, the perseverance shown when the first few attempts fail, not being afraid to ask for help when you need it are all key life skills vital for the future. Using all of these skills, particularly in an unfamiliar context, enables us to analyze the situation and formulate the best way to handle it and in turn, developing and improving on the skills.
Tackling in unfamiliar challenges often requires us to step out of our comfort zones. That forces us to think out of the box and try new things; it helps us to immerse ourselves in situations and do activities we would have never done otherwise. This also helps us to develop new skills as well as enhance the skills we already have.
It is not very often that students go out of the classroom environment, for an extensive amount of time, on excursions like this. Most schools and education systems treat such activities as extracurricular, where students are not required to do them. But including them in the core curriculum would help the students make the most of these experiences and guide them to learn as much as possible. This would encourage students to step out of their comfort zones, take risks and immerse themselves in the whole adventure. With this, they will get much more out of it.
I have had the opportunity to go on Outdoor Education trips with my school (UWCSEA) all throughout my primary and middle school years. On those trips, I can say without doubt that I made the best memories and lessons which I carry with me even today. I remember being completely exhausted after the whole day of kayaking, not knowing when we would stop, just paddling on and making sure I don’t capsize and drown. On the various other outdoor expeditions I have been on at my school — trekking, rafting, snorkeling and exploring the oceans — definitely there were times where I was uncomfortable. Now, when I look back at all of the fantastic experiences that I had, I can’t help but wonder how different a person I would have been without them! I was able to build my risk-taking ability and enhance my confidence. I was a very timid person when I was younger, but now, almost finishing high school, I have become confident to step into the unknown. A big factor in this shift has been those challenging yet enjoyable trips.
Just imagine how much you learn and grow from experiences like these – beautiful experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life!
Aakash is an IB Diploma (Grade-11) student at the United World College (UWCSEA) in Singapore. He has studied in different places including the US, Singapore and India and has thoroughly enjoyed his educational journey throughout those places.
He is passionate about music, specifically percussion and ensemble music and also enjoys composing. He also loves World music and regards music as the most meaningful way to bring people together and create a sense of community regardless of race, gender or creed.
Instagram handle: @aakash.namboodiri