Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Outdoor Learning

canoeing on the nymboida
I believe that outdoor learning is the process of active learning in the outdoors. With active learning I mean that participants learn through what they do, through what they are confronted or challenged with and through what they discover. They learn about the outdoors, they learn about themselves and about others while also learning outdoor skills through investigation, experimentation, providing feedback, reflecting on happenings, reviewing situations and of course team building and cooperative learning.

Looking at all of this I think that most readers would agree that outdoor learning is true learning because participants use natural environments to see, hear, touch and smell the real thing. They use actions that will deliver and experience results and consequences. Outdoor learning provides for participants to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities. They have to manage risks, cope with change, behavioral issues and have the potential to discover abilities and interests they didn't even realize existed.

In a nutshell… outdoor learning can help bring classroom-based subjects alive, stimulate unexplored interests and in essence is not limited. Of course the most important issue with any outdoor learning activity are the safety codes and codes of conduct. These safety codes and codes of conduct are usually found in a business' Child-safe Child-friendly Policy and Code of Conduct statement, provides clear boundaries and should be adhered to at all times by all participating school children but should also be adhered to by teachers, parents, caregivers, and activity providers with no exception.

Outdoor learning should be delivered in a safe environment. Child safety checks should always be done upfront. For example in New South Wales, Australia you would visit the NSW Commission for Children and Young People either online or in person at their office in Surry Hills NSW. They will tell you who is prohibited from working with children. Basically a person who has been convicted or found guilty of a listed serious offence against children (whether in NSW or elsewhere) is prohibited from child-related employment. And also anyone registrable under the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 is prohibited from child-related employment. It is an offence for prohibited persons to apply for or attempt to obtain, undertake or remain in child-related employment in any capacity, whether paid, volunteering or self employed.

Teachers taking their students to outdoor centers should question the validity of management and staff. Rumors may sometimes be just that but why do rumors start? Perhaps there really are not so nice people at the helm. Look at issues such as pedophilia and physical, mental, or sexual harassment. I will look at those issues more closely in the near future and also at the sadness of the fact that sometimes working with children clearance means just that. A clearance on paper but in reality that person simply has not been caught yet or not convicted yet.

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