These excursions are value-added learning opportunities for ISB students and I recently took the opportunity to write about the worth of ‘experiential’ or ‘active’ learning in my weekly Principal’s address to the ISB community. It is my hope to see Outdoor Education, a particular form of active learning, grow at ISB and in the CEESA region as well.
Active learning by definition requires that students share in the experience of learning. Outdoor education refines this focus to include authentic learning outside of school where the environment itself is also part of the inquiry. ISB’s Expedition trips and Week Without Wall Excursions take place in a variety of environments: Both local and international, rural and urban, familiar and even remote locations. During all trips, students and adults share in a wide range of learning experiences. These include skills-focused activities, problem solving tasks, team building and self-reliant learning, with the ‘residential experience’ being of special value to the students.
The Expedition Trips (grade 6-10) purposefully align with the concept of Outdoor Education whereby participants follow an itinerary that includes adventurous activities on land and water and some with an environmental focus. Each grade has a scaffolded level of challenge with the knowledge that such challenging outdoor experiences can powerfully impact upon a young person’s intellectual, physical, social and moral development. Research shows that by successfully facing up to such challenges (which outdoor activities provide) and overcoming fears and apprehensions along the way, youth are able to make major strides in confidence building; and this has implications for all aspects of their development.
Most parents would automatically recognize that Outdoor Education makes a major contribution to both physical and environmental education and can enhance many other curriculum areas as well. But many might not be aware of the fact that it also contributes to personal growth and social awareness and ultimately this helps young people to develop skills for life and the world of work. Outdoor education does this by providing valuable alternative and non-competitive activities for achievement in the formative years of social-emotional development.
The English Outdoor Council’s list of values and benefits for Outdoor Education are eloquently summarized below, highlighting a moral imperative for its undertaking:
“Challenging outdoor experiences promote the development of communication, problem solving and decision making skills which have currency across a range of occupations. They encourage a positive "opting in" and "can do" attitude. Young people’s horizons are broadened, new challenges come to be relished rather than shunned, and perseverance and determination are reinforced. Values and attitudes developed in a context of shared endeavour help to form a sound basis for responsible citizenship.” (englishoutdoorcouncil.org)
As a single, value-added package of learning opportunities, experiential learning cannot be matched. We look forward to growing our program at ISB and would enjoy hearing from you if your school is already offering or building towards an Outdoor Education program.
Kristine Greenlaw, Upper School Principal
International School of Belgrade