by Alex Thomas, Outdoor Education Coordinator and Physical & Health Education teacher
The instinctual knowledge that the outdoors is good for us has been with us for a very very long time. And although we occasionally catch ourselves saying “Isn’t this weather horrible?” or “Don’t climb that tree, you’ll hurt yourself!” or perhaps “Don’t go out, you’ll catch a chill”, ultimately we have known that going outside is, in fact, good for us.
We have been missing YIS Expeditions over the past few years. However, with this absence, we seem to have a heightened awareness of the benefits of not just ‘going’ outside but explicitly learning through adventurous journeys in wilderness settings.
During the disruption of the last two and a half years, maybe we have chosen not to leave the home as much and therefore have noticed certain needs in ourselves as well as the young people that we care for. I for one have been curious when listening to people of all ages as they talk about the outdoors and how they use it. Most noted is the recent boom in camping in Japan over the past two years.
Is it time for our children to go outside and play? Shall we go for a hike? Is the surf up? Maybe I should say yes to that bike trip with friends? Will a forest shower with my favorite chair be just the thing that I need? Should we take the kids out to play in the rain? Stare at the sky? Build mud pies? Is it time to jump puddles?... How do I know? Why did I think this? What are the benefits?
In the article, “Do experiences with nature promote learning?” (Frontiers in Psychology, 19 February 2019), it was suggested that bias toward seeking out the benefits of outdoor learning was strong in those of us who already enjoy playing and working out of doors. Admittedly, I hang out in those circles and am keenly attuned to the feelings and changes in attitude and behavior that the outdoors brings people; and most certainly the students that we teach. However, the same article discusses ‘blind to condition’ scientific research that protects against any preconceived or bias thoughts and objectively points out the deep and powerful learning that occurs when outside.
The scaffolded and age-appropriate YIS Adventure Days, planned for Grades 4 to Grade 12 in the month of May, are designed for our students to explicitly learn in wilderness settings and adventure; because nature is good for children.
On YIS Adventure Days, poised nervously over a jump into a Jurassic-like canyon, students will be guided to assess risk for themselves and make wise choices; “Do I jump? What factors do I need to consider?” Orienteering courses allow for problem solving in small groups when navigating their way through conflict. Effective communication will be imperative in order to prevent the white water raft from going around and around in circles when paddling the beautiful rivers in Okutama. Students will need to put trust in their belay partner when high up on the ropes course. Likewise, their belay partner will have to show responsibility and understand that trust goes both ways. Some will have the opportunity to manage both equipment and self when discovering SCUBA diving in the YIS pool. Challenge, struggle and resilience, initiative, mood management and leading others, YIS Adventure days are packed with explicit and implicit learning. And, all students will have the chance to experience green space, pursue silence and reflect on how not only adventure makes us feel, but how we can use wilderness to improve wellness for years to come.
As YIS Adventure Days roll on, I would like to encourage us all to listen to our children and students and remain curious to the idea that rain, hail or shine, “The outdoors is good for us”.
For parents of Grade 4 to Grade 12, more information on your child’s YIS Adventure Days is available via the Parent Information and Consent Form emailed on April 7th, 2022.