So for the past two weeks, our middle and high school students (and many of our teachers) have been off discovering different parts of Ecuador through our outdoor education program here at AC. I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with the middle school kids last week in two different locations, and to tell you the truth I was really inspired by what I saw. Our students were working tirelessly doing meaningful service projects for the local communities, as well as coming together as grade levels through team building and trust activities. They bonded as a group, they made new friends, the got pushed out of their comfort zones, and they learned a lot about themselves…it was amazing. It left me wondering why we don’t do this for more than just 5 days a year honestly, as it seems to me that these trips might just be the most profound learning that our kids will experience all year. I love the quote below by Walt Whitman because it gets to the core of what I believe in as an educator, which is that not everything that our children need to learn can be taught in a formal classroom setting.
In my opinion, students at this Upper School age need to learn about and internalize the importance of things like trust, service, cultural awareness, environmental stewardship, risk taking, failure, teamwork, and a host of other life skills that will shape who they are, and how they view the world as they meander toward adulthood. Obviously, the best and most profound way to teach and learn these skills is through direct experience, which is why it is so important that we provide opportunities for students, like our Discover Ecuador Trips, where these kinds of experiences can be embraced. I also firmly believe that due to the somewhat sheltered, privileged, and pampered environments that many quality International Schools provide for kids (like ours), breaking students out of their comfort zones (no 5 star hotels, nobody picking up after them, next to no technology, room sharing, getting wet and dirty, trying new foods, giving their time to service, etc..) is an educational responsibility that we all share as a global community.
Inevitably, students return from these trips changed for the better (whether they like it or not)……..better attitudes and perspectives about themselves and their community, better cultural awareness and understanding, better relationships with their teachers and peers, and a better sense of what they can accomplish as young adults. Teachers also return from these trips changed for the better…… a better understanding of their individual students as people, better relationships with students who they don’t necessarily teach, better relationships with their colleagues who they rarely see outside of the school walls, and a better perspective on what’s possible when their kids are pushed past their levels of comfort. I cannot wait to hear the stories, the celebrations, and the life anecdotes that have been generated from this remarkable week away, and I cannot wait to see the positive changes in our kids. It was a wonderful way to begin our school year, and I think it’s time to think critically about how we can bring more experiences like this to life throughout the year. Seriously, if the learning is so rich and meaningful, and the service to our local communities is so impactful, then the question remains…why only 5 days?
Finally, I want to thank all of our teachers who spent these past two weeks with our kids. I know the hard work that is involved with trips like these, and the energy it takes to be with our students for 24 hours a day. You truly are mentors, guardians, and change agents for our young adults, and I could not be more proud of you all…thank you! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the week….
Now I see the secret of making the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
– Walt Whitman
Funny Commercial about Nature –
Outdoor Education Articles –