A look at ed­u­ca­tion in the out­doors

Adventure - - #209 - By Cathy Kel­ton

Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion in New Zealand is a glo­ri­ous thing! We are in­cred­i­bly lucky to have a back­yard filled with so many out­door op­por­tu­ni­ties and young peo­ple be­come hooked once they have had a taste of the out­doors. There are so many amaz­ing Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­grams on of­fer...the chal­lenge is find­ing how many you can fit in! With the in­creas­ing dom­i­nance of tech­nol­ogy, so­cial me­dia and a seden­tary lifestyle, Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion and con­nect­ing back with na­ture is be­com­ing more and more im­por­tant.

I grew up with tramp­ing in my blood. Each year my fam­ily and I would plan a hik­ing ad­ven­ture and trot off to tramp­ing havens through­out New Zealand; such as the Sounds, or right up north to ex­plore the Cape. Al­though most hills made me want to sell my pack, I still came away a sense of ac­com­plish­ment, free­dom and pos­i­tive aware­ness for my en­vi­ron­ment. Fast for­ward 20 years and that pas­sion has led me into a ca­reer as a Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion and Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion teacher, with a pas­sion for Duke of Ed­in­burgh.

I be­lieve that Out­door ed­u­ca­tion fos­ters the fun­da­men­tals of a young per­son’s life which en­cour­ages them to em­brace ad­ven­ture and ap­pre­ci­ate the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment we live in. So many skills are learnt from out­door ex­pe­ri­ences such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion, team­work and re­silience. Each of these skills ul­ti­mately forge how we show re­spect for our­selves and how re­spect­ful we are to­wards oth­ers. As a teacher of Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion, young peo­ple thrive when they are pas­sion­ate about some­thing or they have made the choice to grasp an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing chal­leng­ing for the first time. In this ever-chang­ing world our young peo­ple are sur­rounded by tech­nol­ogy, con­stantly con­nected to oth­ers through the use of mo­bile phones, so­cial me­dia sites and the in­ter­net. What I feel is miss­ing from this “con­nec­tiv­ity” is the abil­ity for our young peo­ple to ac­tu­ally form pos­i­tive face to face re­la­tion­ships with like­minded in­di­vid­u­als.

Be­ing in an out­door en­vi­ron­ment en­ables you to form these re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers as you learn pretty quickly how im­por­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tion is. Trip plan­ning, dis­cussing funny sto­ries around a camp­fire and cook­ing with oth­ers are just a few ex­am­ples of where these re­la­tion­ships are es­sen­tial. The skills re­quired to ex­pe­ri­ence the out­doors safely cer­tainly teach you how im­por­tant de­vel­op­ing these in­ter­per­sonal skills is and I do be­lieve this

is paramount to suc­cess in life. There is a real feel­ing of con­nec­tion when out in the out­doors, a bet­ter con­nec­tion you will ever get on your phone!

I have al­ways en­joyed en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple to in­volve them­selves in any out­doors ac­tiv­i­ties, from tak­ing Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion at school, join­ing cadets and scouts, go­ing on the Spirit of New Zealand, and also be­ing in­volved in Duke of Ed­in­burgh Pro­grams run through many schools in NZ. At Orewa Col­lege we are lucky enough to have a strong Duke of Ed­in­burgh Award Pro­gramme which has been run­ning for over 30 years. This award re­quires in­di­vid­u­als to com­plete 4 sec­tions where they are im­mersed into chal­leng­ing, self-em­pow­er­ing ex­pe­ri­ences both in the com­mu­nity, at school and in the out­doors. Duke of Ed is all about young peo­ple build­ing self-con­fi­dence and greater re­silience, so they are more pre­pared for be­ing suc­cess­ful in to­day's ever-chang­ing world. The award is open to any­one be­tween the ages of 14-24 years re­gard­less of gen­der, back­ground or abil­ity. Young peo­ple are re­quired to de­sign their own award pro­gramme, set­ting goals and record­ing their progress un­der each award sec­tion; Skill, Ser­vice, Phys­i­cal Ac­tiv­ity and Ad­ven­tur­ous Jour­ney.

One of my favourite sec­tions in the award is the ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney sec­tion. This is where stu­dents are in­volved in plan­ning an out­door ad­ven­ture, and then com­plet­ing this as a group. We have been to many places through­out New Zealand namely, Spir­its Bay in the far north, Karanga­hake Gorge near Thames, Lake Waikare­moana in the Urew­eras, The Hea­phy Track in the Kahu­rangi Na­tional Park and the North­ern Cir­cuit around Ton­gariro. Many stu­dents have com­mented on how much they have en­joyed these ex­pe­ri­ences in the out­doors and how they can­not wait to get back out there!

Court­ney from our Level 3 Out­door Ed­u­ca­tion class feels pas­sion­ately about Out­door Ed and the val­ues it in­stalls in her, “Tak­ing out­door ed in school gives me the op­por­tu­nity to get out there and ex­pe­ri­ence the ac­tiv­i­ties in the out­doors that I may not get the op­por­tu­nity to do oth­er­wise. It is not a sub­jec­tive class as each per­son has equal op­por­tu­nity, whether male or fe­male, so we all have the chance to work to­gether and de­velop skills that we can use in ev­ery­day life and the out­door com­mu­nity. It gives us a chance to ap­pre­ci­ate the en­vi­ron­ment and get in­volved in ac­tiv­i­ties whether it be for the ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge or for a fu­ture ca­reer”.

So, there you have it. The role the out­doors has played in my life has shaped me into the per­son I am to­day. Giv­ing back to oth­ers is one way we can move for­ward to­gether mak­ing pos­i­tive con­nec­tions with oth­ers. Em­brace, in­spire and ap­pre­ci­ate the out­doors!

ABOVE: Gold Dukes Prac­tice Tramp at the Emer­ald Lakes on the Ton­gariro North­ern Cir­cuit Tramp. BE­LOW: Sil­ver Dukes Qual­i­fy­ing Tramp, Lake Waikare­moana, Urew­era Na­tional Park.BOT­TOM: Man­gatepopo Hut, Ton­gariro North­ern Cir­cuit Tramp.

ABOVE: Matt Har­ri­son soak­ing up the views of Lake Waikare­moana, Urew­era Na­tional Park. BE­LOW: Sil­ver Dukes Qual­i­fy­ing Tramp, Lake Waikare­moana, Urew­era Na­tional Park.

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