What Makes Outdoor Education So Special? #CISVA

At the end of every school year we ask our Grade Seven students to write about their best memories of their years at CCS.   The vast majority of students will put Outdoor Education at the top of their list.  That’s not just their best Grade Seven memory, it’s the highlight of their entire eight years at our school.  What makes Outdoor Education so special and why does it leave such a positive and lasting impression on the students?

The Party Factor – Of course one thing 12-year-olds love is hanging out with their friends.  Outdoor Education can be viewed as a three-day sleepover.  They love the freedom of staying up late talking and being “in charge” of their own cabins.

The Emotional Surge of Being Away From Home – Memories are made more lasting when they are attached to strong emotions. For many students Outdoor Education is their first experience of being away from family for an extended period of time.  This stirs up a myriad of emotions, especially when you add in the prayer and reflective activities students engage in while at Outdoor Education.

A New Experience of Faith – Many students have never experienced prayer and sacraments outside of their school, home, and Church.  At Outdoor Education we enjoy Mass on the side of a mountain overlooking the valley below.  Students also engage in evening prayer and see their faith and each other in a new way.

Getting to Know Their Teachers and Each Other in a Different Way – Students experience their teachers and their friends in a different way at Outdoor Education.  Everyone is just a little more relaxed, maybe more like they are at home.  Teachers can be themselves and students enjoy seeing them in this way.  Students also learn new things about each other and learn to be friends with completely new people.

A Break From Electronics – We do not allow the students to use any electronics at camp.  For some reason if you took away electronics at home kids would hate it, but at camp kids love it!  The break from screens gives them time to think, play, be creative, and be social.  The transformation is quick and noticeable almost immediately.

Experiencing the Outdoors – Most of us live very suburban lives with a small patch of grass and a nearby park.  Being in the wilderness changes things.  A sense of wonder and awe fills the students as they experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors.

As a teacher I always liked Outdoor Education for all these reasons.  While being away from my own family for three days was a sacrifice, it was always good to see the growth in the students.  The benefits of these few days can be seen for the rest of the year.  I am so grateful to our own teachers who sacrifice family time to be a part of Outdoor Education.

Have you had positive Outdoor Education experiences?  Can you think of any other reasons it is such a special event?  Please leave your thoughts in the comment.  Thanks for reading!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “What Makes Outdoor Education So Special? #CISVA

  1. KW

    A memory from my outdoor education experience:
    Loud shouting and chanting broke the silence of the peaceful lake. The camp leader envisaged a quiet canoe trip where we could appreciate the beauty and serenity of nature. The half-dozen kids in the canoe had other ideas. We were Olympians rowing for Canada and the world record. We were voyageurs racing through raging rapids. We were being chased by (entirely fictional) enemies and had to reach the safety of shore. We were not best friends; in class we barely spoke to each other, yet here we were working together as a perfect team (and in a canoe, if you’re not in unison, you’re going nowhere). When we completed our circuit and reached the shore we cheered and high-fived as if we had really won a gold medal.

    Today with kids and adults alike attached to screens of various kinds, it is more important than ever to take time away to get out into nature and enjoy it, whether that’s overcoming a physical challenge or just quietly appreciating the beauty of God’s creation.

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