The more engaged students are in the learning process, the more they will retain as they become young adults. By acknowledging and accounting for each young learner, an effective educational environment is created with clear pathways to success. At The Outdoor Education Group, we have spent over 36 years honing our approach to education and facilitation. For us, a bushwalk is not just a bushwalk; it's an opportunity to build confidence, resilience, adaptability and positive attitudes in students.
FACILITATION IS KEY
We take our role as providers of powerful outdoor education experiences very seriously because all young people deserve to be equipped with the skills they need to make a positive impact in society. Our philosophy and approach to facilitating and delivering these often life-changing experiences ensure we prepare students for life's challenges.
Our Outdoor Educators are all well-versed in the facilitation technique of explore, reflect, wonder.
The explore, reflect, wonder model provides a sequential framework wherein our team encourages, guides, and mentors students to explore their surroundings in nature and their relationships within their group - the dynamics at play to ensure the groups' success in an unfamiliar and challenging environment.
When students are encouraged to reflect, they are given the space and structure to absorb their experiences and share them with their group. The reflection is a meaningful examination of the experience.
By sharing their experiences, students come to the final phase of our facilitation model; wonder; this can be described as the distillation of the explore and reflect phases into a tangible, actionable insight or skill they can take away with them and exercise in their everyday home or school lives.
Following the explore, reflect, wonder model creates a clear pathway to student growth and development.
Now, we could unpack each of the model's phases in detail, however, we believe in real-life experiences, and we have many stories to share (plus, we love a yarn).
My name is Marcos Madeira. I have spent almost 4 years in the field with the Outdoor Education Group. I have coordinated programs in the Grampians, Murray, Lake Eildon, Great South West, High Plains, Mt Stirling, Flinders Ranges, Wilson's Prom, and Mornington Peninsula.
During a bushwalking program along the Murray River, I had the pleasure of shadowing a senior Outdoor Educator. I remember it well because he was highly skilled at preparing the group for success.
After some icebreaker games, we began our bushwalk. During the first day, I observed the Outdoor Educator spend time with each individual student. In this way, he began to understand each student's disposition, concerns and expectations.
During one of these exchanges, he discovered one male student who was disengaged, disinterested and wanted to go home. He spent the first day complaining.
On the second day, the Outdoor Educator continued speaking with him and creating a space in which the student felt safe to explore his emotions. When the group was asked to take over navigation responsibilities, the student did not participate. During a subsequent conversation with the Outdoor Educator, the young man expressed his regret for not participating in the day's activities. He had observed his peers learning their way around a compass and having fun and wished he had joined in.
By the third day, his attitude had changed. He began participating and engaging fellow students with ease and enthusiasm.
During the final group reflection at the end of the program, the young man said he should have been more involved, to begin with, and understood his attitude negatively impacted his time outdoors with us.
By continually allowing for students to explore their feelings, we make way for profound growth and insight.
During an unforgettable program in the Grampians, I met a young name named Ben. Ben had Asperger's Syndrome and displayed a tireless camaraderie towards his group. While some group members approached their responsibilities with indifference, Ben always seemed to know what to do next and was 100% committed.
The Outdoor Educator saw Ben's potential to uplift the group and continued to create safe moments for him to contribute to.
Group shifts and developments are a process; they do not occur in a blink of an eye. However, on this particular program, I noticed a stark turning point.
On the second night of program, the Outdoor Educator called for the students to sit around the campfire and reflect on their day. The students shared the day's highlights and challenges. When it was Ben's time to speak, we all listened intently. He spoke of the memories he had made so far – how precious they were to him and how much joy he gained for providing the group with what he called "free help".
The group dynamic changed from that moment on, and I observed each member strive to match Ben's enthusiasm and commitment. This program created some wonderful memories for Ben, I'm sure. For me, it is the most memorable moment in all my time with The Outdoor Education Group.
By allowing open reflection within a group setting meaningful examination of the experience is shared and understood.
During a program at Camp Jungai this year, I watched as a group prepared for a raft building session. It being midway through the program, the Outdoor Educator had established a good rapport with the students. As the group helped each other into their PFDs, they had many questions about the task ahead.
As a seasoned team member, the Outdoor Educator considered her answers carefully. Instead of demonstrating how the group might consider building their raft, the Outdoor Educator reversed their questions and asked them instead, "what do you think is the best way to start?" "How much rope do you think you might need?"
During the remainder of the program, we observed the students accept and tackle each challenge in their path, applying lessons learnt in the previous sessions.
By encouraging students to problem-solve amongst themselves, communicate meaningfully and think critically, lessons are consolidated and embedded.
EXPLORE, REFLECT, WONDER WITH US
We are all about learner-centred delivery and facilitation at The Outdoor Education Group. With a clear framework and some gentle guidance, students come away from our programs, having grown in important and often unexpected ways.
Whether it be a camp, journey or incursion, our programs provide students with the opportunity to grow as individuals and to better understand the positive influence they can have on the world around them through explore, reflect, wonder.