It's Not About the Bike
by Alex Thomas, Physical & Health Education Teacher/Outdoor Education Coordinator
It's not about the bike. It's really not. Nor is it about the kayak, my hiking shoes, my tent or even the climbing rope. And although mountain biking can be fun, and climbing rocks can be thrilling, the reasons for YIS having a scaffolded Outdoor Education program extend beyond only having fun.
At YIS, we believe in being Fit for Life. Spending time outdoors creates greater opportunities to live and play well throughout one's life.There is no doubt that outdoor pursuits offer an active lifestyle for those who do not always enjoy team sports, competition or throwing and catching a ball. One could argue that it is also necessary to leave the city on regular occasions; indeed, the draw of the mountains is stronger for some than others. Leaving the office, desk or library allows the mind and eyes to rest and rejuvenate. When young people have been shown the healing qualities of wilderness, the knowledge and experience gained becomes a vital life tool that they can call on when times get tough; as they inevitably do in our bustling city life. Shinrin Yoku (森林浴) translates from Japanese as 'forest shower' but many cultures around the world have long depended on nature for both physical health and mental wellness.
We also know now that our natural world is changing. Getting smaller, getting warmer, a tad messier. We know that we need to care for it, or the situation will worsen. We know that facilitating student learning about such concepts as sustainability and interconnectedness must be in our curriculum. However, these are difficult ideas to grasp without first allowing students to gain an appreciation and a true passion for playing and living in the natural world. Experiential learning and the real consequences of taking action on an adventurous expedition is truly a powerful way for our future leaders to start their journey in conservation.
Outdoor Education can sometimes be less than fun. Outdoor Education is sometimes wet, cold, challenging and even scary. But so is life. Taking part in an adventurous journey, assessing and managing risk, organizing oneself or a group; applying resilience, awareness, and care are all skills and attitudes that make for a very employable worker, effective family member and a successfully active community member. The growth of these interpersonal skills is what outdoor education truly offers our students.
Why Outdoor Education at YIS? To create a growth mindset and dependable, competent people. The students know this. We often ask the students, "Why Outdoor Education?" or "Why do you think that your school makes Expeditions an essential part of the curriculum?" And often, our students express their learning and understanding from their experiences with clarity, purpose and passion.
So please, ask them. When our students come back from their YIS Expedition, please ask them, " Why Outdoor Education?" And we will be reminded yet again, that it's not about the bike.
You are invited to watch this video for more voices from our Outdoor Education program.