Monday, June 7, 2010

Why I Love Outdoor Education

Jose is a Hispanic kid who has had to work very hard to overcome the language barrier. I watched Jose and his best amigo, Pablo, canoeing for the first time at 6th Grade Camp. Framed by the faded orange life jacket, Jose's eyes were wide, and his smile even wider as he realized that the spotter was no longer holding the canoe. He and Pablo were captains of their own fate. His expression said, "I'm doing it! I'm actually balancing in a canoe!" It was a magical moment -- the moment that makes teaching worthwhile.

Haley is a complainer. She doesn't like to try new things, grumbles loudly when asked to do something, and often refuses to do it. Her group was at the rock climbing wall, and Haley was balking. "I'm afraid of heights," she said, as she stepped out of line and sat down in a chair apart from the group. After everyone else had gone, it was obvious that Haley was inwardly struggling. Her adventurous spirit was asserting itself. With some encouragement, she strapped on the safety harness and approached the wall. "On belay?" she asked. "Belay on," came the answer. And the rest is history. We all clapped as she scaled the wall, then allowed herself to lean back into the harness and walk down the wall. One small step for man.

A Tale of 2 Nicks. . .
One 6 foot giant, and 1 short and skinny, the 2 Nicks were an unlikely pair. So when tall Nick was cast as the heroine of his group's skit, everyone was surprised that he consented. When he skipped onto the stage, pretended to pick flowers, and threw them over his shoulder in girlish delight, the audience was stunned. (Think Ferdinand the Bull of picture-book fame. . .) Next, shrimpy Nick entered the scene. He kicked down the imaginary door and flexed his imaginary muscles before ousting the evil villain and rescuing Nick #1. These 2 shy boys that never talked in homeroom brought down the house. Two giant steps for man-kind.

Seeing different aspects of others' personalities is a wonderful consequence of outdoor education. So is watching kids add one more notch to their confidence belts every time they risk trying something new.

Editor's Note: The names in this piece are fictitious, but the adventures are real.

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