Mulgrave offers a vibrant Outdoor Education Programme that engages all K-12 students in experiences outside of the classroom. We value the opportunity for students to make links between outdoor education and their classroom learning experiences. For this reason, we offer activities throughout the year for students to engage in these “experiential” learning opportunities.
We believe that our students should have:
- Opportunities to develop an individual connection with nature
- Opportunities to develop an individual connection with their peers and with their teachers inside and outside of the classroom
- Outdoor experiences that are authentically connected to the areas of Academics, Athletics, the Arts and Citizenship
- Classroom learning experiences that are enhanced by direct curriculum links to “real life” outdoor experiences
- The choice to further their involvement in Outdoor Education beyond grade-wide experiences
- Outdoor skills that are taught in a sequential manner so that when they leave Mulgrave they have a well-rounded skill set that allows them to continue to pursue outdoor opportunities as part of their personal life
This brief paper was written to help to explain to students, parents and staff why we see the benefits of outdoor education as an important part of the school’s future.
The Pattern That Connects: Why We Value Outdoor Education at Mulgrave
Exploration is at the heart of Canadian heritage and British Columbia was founded by explorers and their continued desire for adventure. This tradition of exploration has persevered due to the vast wilderness that still remains in our province.
At Mulgrave we want to embrace and nurture this sense of adventure in all of our students through our holistic outdoor education programme. Our programme is designed to take students through a progression of physical and mental challenges that are authentic and age-appropriate, which enrich their learning and inspire them to develop new skills and qualities.
With a base in interdisciplinary curricula, outdoor education has strong links to one of the main philosophies of the IB programme: to educate the whole person. In particular, the Middle Years Programme encourages students to “embrace and understand the connections between traditional subjects and the real world to become critical and reflective thinkers (IBO)
Keeping the Bigger Picture in Focus: Holistic Learning
Holistic learning is fundamental to an IB education; students need to experience learning that takes them beyond purely intellectual, knowledge-based pursuits (Hare 3). Mulgrave’s outdoor education programme promotes “the development of active relationships at all levels, whether these are between the subject domains, between individuals and their peer groups and communities or between the individual and the world around them” (Hare 3). The combination of physical, mental, intellectual, social and spiritual challenges encountered in a nature-based environment is reflective of each individual’s beliefs, skills and experience and is, therefore, unique. We encourage students to challenge themselves in all of these areas and to actively reflect on these experiences to promote individual growth. This process of continually challenging, developing and applying personal skills and attributes as part of lifelong learning is the very definition of holistic learning.
Synthesis of Information: Interdisciplinary Curriculum
An integral aspect of holistic education is the relationship between traditional subject domains. In a nature-based setting, students experience and apply knowledge gained in the classroom in a way which crosses the traditional boundaries between subject areas. Exposure to the interdisciplinarity of outdoor pursuits creates the foundation for students to draw from multiple subject areas when tackling a problem, creating a solution or product, or raising critical questions on a given issue. In this sense, Mulgrave’s outdoor programme demonstrates to students that the skills and knowledge they gain in a classroom setting are neither isolated nor disconnected. Rather, they are derived from and relevant for real-world settings where different subject areas are not separated. Subject areas typically linked to our outdoor education programme include the Sciences, Humanities, Art, Physical Education and Mentoring. These are often authentically layered concurrently into a single excursion.
Experience is the Discovery of Relevance: Experiential Education
Educational experiences in natural settings not only challenge students on a deeply personal level and break down barriers between diverse subject areas, they also provide critical opportunities for students to learn through authentic experience. When situated directly within the environment of that which is being learned, experiences become a multi-sensory, physical, mental, intellectual, social and spiritual reaction to the experience. The students are given a safe environment to learn and practice skills and to then understand the context and relevance of the skills when applying them outdoors. When learning happens in this manner, interest and engagement rise dramatically as does the perceived relevance of the learning. Outdoor education is an umbrella which encompasses many forms of learning, from environmental to adventure education and, at Mulgrave, we seek to provide students the appropriate outdoor education experience for their age and ability level.
Addressing What Matters: Socio-Emotional Development
Embedded in outdoor education are avenues for personal growth and social awareness. Our outdoor education continuum provides appropriately challenging experiences for the students, which provides opportunities to foster trust, tolerance and willingness to give and receive support and feedback. Anti-social behaviour is healthily challenged through cooperative group work. Most activities encourage interdependence rather than competition and through this students learn a variety of leadership styles and techniques. Students encounter situations that require courage and perseverance and, with support from staff, they begin to understand what it means to step out of their comfort zone. These are great examples of communication, collaboration and adaptability; 21st century life skills that we believe are essential at Mulgrave (21st Century Skills).
There are inherent benefits to taking our students outside of the school and into nature. Multiple studies have concluded that students who play outside concentrate better in school. Many would attribute it to the physical activity and not the act of being in nature. However, this was proved wrong by researchers at the University of Michigan who found “that a 45 minute walk in the forest increases cognitive performance, whereas a 45 minute walk through downtown does not” (Grierson 79). Thus by providing our students opportunities to connect to nature, we expect the positive effects to translate over to other aspects of their school life.
Furthermore, outdoor education allows our students to build a relationship with the natural world and the place of humans within it. One of our central values at Mulgrave is the belief that a global perspective and environmental and social responsibility are central to becoming true world citizens (Mulgrave Vision & Values). It is our hope that by providing students hands-on experiences in the natural world, they will begin to see themselves as intimately connected to the environment and not separate from it. In turn, it will allow the students to develop into global citizens with strong environmental awareness. We believe that our students can develop into knowledgeable, confident, compassionate and public spirited individuals using outdoor education as a conduit for this process of self-discovery (Mulgrave Vision & Values).
Planting Seeds: Lifelong skills
Outdoor education introduces students to a variety of transferrable skills. An obvious benefit is to the individual’s health and fitness; additional skills such as safety, risk assessment, leadership, goal-setting, communication and problem-solving are carried over into all aspects of one’s life. It is our hope that our students apply the skills they learn through outdoor education to maintain a healthy lifestyle beyond their school years.
Enhancing School Life: Building Community
By facing physical challenges in a wilderness setting, the skills of self-awareness, self-confidence and interdependence are strengthened and an increased sense of community is nurtured at Mulgrave. Participation in exciting and enjoyable outdoor activities with teachers, instructors and peers reinforces a positive attitude towards education and contributes significantly to the general ethos of our school.
Setting the Intention: How We Deliver
The powerful, holistic learning afforded through outdoor education experiences can take place in a variety of environments that are both local and urban or in more remote settings. We involve students in a wide range of experiences throughout their time at Mulgrave, delivering our outdoor education programme through grade-wide programs, choice for further involvement through clubs and cohorts, and incorporation into core courses. For an overview of our current programme and to view our skills continuum, please visit the Outdoor Education link on our website Mulgrave Outdoor Education.
Developing our outdoor education programme so that it fully achieves the outcomes articulated above will be challenging and will take us several years to complete to the high level of quality we are committed to at Mulgrave. We believe, however, that this is a worthy and achievable goal that will significantly enrich our students’ education.
Grierson, Bruce. “Kids Gone Wild.” Readers Digest Magasine (July 2011).
Hare, John. “Holistic Education: An interpretation for teachers in the IB programmes.” IBO: IB Position Paper (2010): 1-8.
IBO. International Baccalaureate . 2011. range of dates 2011 <www.ibo.org/ibaem/become/myp>.
The Partnership For 21st Century Skills. 2011. 31 October 2011 <www.p21.org>.