Traditional education has many strengths but also many limitations (it’s no secret).

Innovative leaders must continue to question traditional education in order to meet the individual needs of learners and the ever-changing knowledge economy, we often label as higher education.

 

Not reinventing a system that works so well – instead complementing this system with innovative outdoor education experiences and outcomes-focussed program architecture.

 

We must also remind ourselves as educators, that long term student success depends on achieving much more than just academic success.

 

How? Education beyond the walls of the classroom

 

One of the most complimentary support mechanisms to academic orientated education is outdoor education and the ability to utilise natural and unfamiliar environments to build character and develop key life skills in young people.

 

Many of our forward thinking Independent Australian schools have adopted sequential outdoor education or outdoor experiences into their curriculum as a core fundamental of the school’s philosophy and values. Knowing what can be achieved from students participating in an intrinsically designed program, is why photos of these experiences are proudly framed and hung on the school's reception wall.

 

Some of these schools engage with contractual providers like us. Others employ key individuals to coordinate their programs internally.

 

Either way, this ‘extra or co-curricular’ school program should be seen and viewed by educational leaders as a ‘core-curricular’ program. Not something we simply do, if we feel like it.

 

Government schools do a great job of including outdoor education experiences as a part of their co-curricular activities, however many schools are faced with an array of challenges preventing them from successfully adopting outdoor education.

The greatest challenge being funding.

 

The Victorian State Government should be given praise, as their Camps, Sports and Excursions fund has assisted thousands socio-disadvantaged school students in helping them attend school camp, and co-curricular experiences – something I am very passionate about.

 

No student should miss out on school camp due to financial reasons.

 

We have a responsibility as outdoor educators, be it expert lecturers, program designers, camp owners and operators, facilitators, instructors, group leaders, camp coordinators and managers. The responsibility to educate the knowledge economy on the importance of education and experiential learning beyond the walls of the classroom or lecture theatre.

 

Out Beyond focuses on the development of life skills within 8 key areas:

·      Leadership

·      Problem Solving

·      Communication

·      Global Citizenship

·      Teamwork

·      Resilience and Grit

·      Innovation

·      Emotional Intelligence

 

Richard Miller the founding president of Olin College talks about how the correlation between how much you know, and how well your life turns out to be, is not very good.

 

“The 3 times better predictor; of positive life outcomes, than either knowledge or intelligence; is what is called grit.” – Richard Miller

 

Again, creating a culture that fosters the beliefs that drive perseverance along with teaching the strategies for overcoming academic blocks can make all the difference.

 

Grit, is loosely defined as persistence over time to overcome challenges and accomplish big goals (Duckworth, 2013; Shechtman, DeBarger, Dornsife, Rosier, & Yarnall, 2013).

Grit comprises a suite of traits and behaviours, including;

Goal-directedness (knowing where to go and how to get there)Motivation (having a strong will to achieve identified goals)Self-control (avoiding distractions and focusing on the task at hand)Positive mind-set (embracing challenge and viewing failure as a learning opportunity)

It's a combination of passion and perseverance, it’s attitudes, behaviours and motivations – its not knowledge.

The knowledge economy is about putting content into kids heads, whereas the experience economy that Out Beyond creates- is about allowing students to draw out their creative content, and apply it, in simulated environments.

 

In our student-led programs, the teacher is not the expert, the teacher is the coach.

 

The best organisation of students in this case is not in a large auditorium sitting in rows or in the classroom, but in small groups talking to each other, on some kind of a maker project, or solving a problem.

 

It’s not about what you know its about what you can do with what you know – Meet the Maker Economy.

Is Outdoor education a kind of Maker Project?

 

I certainly can not comment on outdoor education as a whole – however Out Beyond considers each and every one of its camp programs, study tours, outdoor leadership and incursion workshops to be maker projects.

 

We involve students in the ideation, planning, design, architecture and build of each and every one of their programs – giving them ownership, responsibility and empowerment.

 

This sets up the foundation for greater learning as students are engaged from the very beginning.

It’s what comes out of the students heads that's important. Creativity has less to do with your DNA than it does to do with your environment. Experiential learning at its finest!

 

We use experiential learning to help students learn to persevere and succeed. A research summary by Diamond and Lee (2011) concluded that the best way to teach self-regulation skills may not be to teach them directly, but rather to have students learn them indirectly through experiences that tap into their passions and interests, help them to develop a sense of pride, and give them "a sense of belonging and social acceptance". Thoughtfully delivered Out Beyond activities, such as camps, adventure activities, drama, and sports, can help students develop self-discipline and persistence through structured opportunities to challenge themselves, learn through failure, and experience improvement.

 

Twenty-five years of research has shown that giving students challenging goals encourages greater effort and persistence than providing moderate, "do-your-best" goals or no goals at all (Locke & Latham, 2006). However, simply setting a high bar is inadequate. Students also need the will to achieve goals (Poropat, 2009); a growth mind-set, or the belief that they can become smarter and turn failure into success through their own efforts (Dweck, 2006); and the ability to delay gratification and stay focused on the task at hand—what psychologists call self-regulation.

 

When we look at some of the worlds most successful people, athletes, business people, entrepreneurs -at first glance we only see where they stand right now. Tune in a little closer, we begin to understand that they each possess an enormous amount of grit.

 

Grit is an essential ingredient in achieving positive life outcomes. Grit teaches us how to turn failure into greatness; and we must develop this characteristic in all young people.