Much has been written about the role Outdoor Education can play in moving students outside their comfort zone to help them grow. The underlying assumption is that growth can occur where there is some uncertainty of outcome. The tools students often state they use and practise include positive peer support, personal conviction or trust in the process.
Outdoor Education at Hillbrook reflects a view that growth can be facilitated by a nuanced approach, that it is far more complicated than a simple stimulus-response. Being outside one’s personal zone of comfort does not necessarily equal ‘growth’. It might just mean you are scared, or wet and cold, or confused. Any of these things without a purpose are just unpleasant!
Novel and challenging experiences that take place in evocative outdoor settings can provide awesome potential for growth. In order to maximise their potential, they should be intentionally designed, sequential in nature and respectful of where a learner is ‘at’. A back-country journey may involve all those unpleasant elements listed above, but when combined with a sense of purpose, personal agency and a shared sense of caring, the growth that can result is much richer. When the hard times of a journey are retold with a smile, you know we’ve done it right.
When the well meaning boy helped the struggling butterfly by ripping the cocoon it was trying to emerge from open, he had the best intentions at heart. However, as the parable goes, without that struggle, the butterfly failed to strengthen its wings and never flew.
Helping students move outside the area in which they are comfortable can be a great facilitator of
growth – but it is important to remember that struggle without purpose doesn’t equal growth.
by ANDREW DEVENISH
Head of Outdoor Education