07 Jun Why Outdoor Education matters
We recently had a school at one of our sites who had to bring some classroom work with them because there were some assessment deadlines they couldn’t shift for camp. They didn’t like doing it – the preference of many schools is to make camp a time away from the pressures of the classroom. That doesn’t mean however that schools, students and parents shouldn’t expect learning and educational outcomes from their Queensland school camp experience.
A quality school camp should be what psychologists call a “liminal” experience. A liminal space is a place of transition, waiting, and growth. Liminality happens when you get removed from your everyday environment into a place of experience, learning and relational memory.
When booking a camp it is important to understand the subtle distinctions operators make between their programs. Calling a camping program a “recreational” or “adventure” package means it’s probably a very different experience to an Outdoor Education program. There’s not anything wrong with any of these options, but it matters when you book to know that they have a different focus and outcomes.
When I first commenced in this industry I was on a steep learning curve as I attended my first conference of Outdoor Educators. The first question I heard asked has stayed with me ever since. A decent Outdoor Education operator is always asking themselves “how is the experience we’re offering any different to a ride at the local Show?”
In today’s world it is important suburban kids have fun and an experience of the outdoors in a safe context. Adventure/Recreation packages tend to put the emphasis on the adrenaline and/or fun experience. Sessions are shorter and have little in the way of meaningful instruction or reflection. In contrast Outdoor Education places the emphasis on personal development and learning. Sessions are longer, they have a fuller briefing and a time of reflection afterwards. The emphasis is on building character, exploring personal boundaries, and using interacting with instructors and peers to build better relationships.
It’s cheaper to facilitate Adventure/Recreation options. The training required isn’t as rigorous and the group ratios of participants to instructors are generally higher. As much as humanly possible at QCCC we try to keep an instructor with their group for the entirety of their camp. This maximises relationship between students and instructors and gives them many more hours to determine the dynamics of their group and contribute constructively. The training and expectation is more expensive as instructors need to learn multiple and complex disciplines, but it produces outcomes one shouldn’t necessarily expect of other options. QCCC’s sequential programs also mean schools can return for multiple visits to our sites and have a very different experience, whilst still building on the experiences already had.
The industry norm is instructors have a shelf-life with organisations of 12-18 months before they move on out of boredom and repetition. QCCC’s Outdoor Education Department is led by industry-pioneer Neil Robinson who has been with the organisation for twenty-five years and many of our instructors have been with us for ten years or more.
QCCC campsites don’t have a traditional classroom, but arguably possess some of the finest outdoor classrooms imaginable. Facilitated by dedicated and highly qualified staff we are proudly an Outdoor Education facility, committed to great outcomes and student development in partnership with Queensland schools.