Tag Archives: Outdoor Education

Ten years since Alaska White Mountain Expedition⤴

from @ OllieBray.com

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Almost exactly ten years ago I had just arrived back home from Alaska after a month long expedition to the Alaska White Mountains and the Yukon. I've been lucky over the years to lead four expeditions to Alaska (with a 5th on the backburner). But the 2005 trip will always stick in my mind as being particularly special and a grande finale to my time at Knox Academy. It was great pleasure to share the trip with nine exceptional young people and two even more exceptional colleagues and lifelong friends (David Russell and Rhona Smith).

Unfortunately, the trip took place before before this blog came into existence (only just!) which meant it missed out on any digital documentation. We also lacked a final report because Nicola Holding (ace expedition member, amateur ornithologist and my canoe buddy for ten days - who could only paddle on one side!) was so tired as we flew back though Seattle she left her journal in the airport!

Dave reminded me last night that it was the tenth anniversary of the expedition. His reminder was timely and I had just written about the importance of residential opportunities for young people. It also gave me a good excuse to dig out my photos from the trip and up-loaded them to Flickr as well as having a chance to look though my old expedition maps and files. It is really is great to explore old memories. It also reminded me that it was also nice to still be in touch with pretty much all team via Facebook (I've lost touch with lots of members of previous trips from the mid to late 1990s - partly due to the lack of social media at the time).

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Photo: Bear Encounter on Beaver Creek

The 2005 trip (as with most youth expeditions) was over a year in the planning. Originally we had planned to paddle to Noatak River but the costs were spiralling (although I did get back and paddle the Noatak with a group in 2010). In the end we discovered (and opted for) perhaps the greatest (and cheapest) wilderness float in North America. Nome Creek into Beaver Creek into the Yukon this is a 499 mile float that scrapes the Arctic Circle and is an Alaska Classic (easy grade I water, with one grade II rapid) that goes road-to-road so you don't need expensive air transportation. We spent 17 days being self sufficient on the river and we didn't see another person during the whole of that time.

As part of the trip we also aimed to hike the Circle to Fairbanks Historic Trail, which took in the Pinnell Mountain Recreation Trail. The Pinnell's were exceptional (classic Alaska Tundra Hiking) and I enjoyed our 30mile hike above the tree line as well as visiting the mountain huts on trail. However when we dropped down back onto the Circle - Fairbanks Trail navigation and bushwacking became almost impossible as we traversed areas burnt out by forest fire and areas almost impossible to negotiate due to fallen trees. Making painfully slow progress we bailed from the route eventually and made our way through forest and rivers to the Steese Highway and the comfort of Billy's Backpackers in Fairbanks. To be fair they started to up-grade the trail in 2006 (and it has become popular with Mountain Bikers) so I expect a re-visit might provide a different experience compared to our bushwacking adventure!

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Happy memories indeed from bear encounters, to paddling though forest fires, to Paul's crazy driving, to a night in Mordor, to Alaskan Amber, to Joe (at the hostel) and lots and lots of laughs! What we accomplished was really quite amazing and it is great to see so many of the team still active in the outdoors.

Trip photos here.

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Brilliant residentials and their impact on children, young people and schools [@LearningAway]⤴

from @ OllieBray.com

Learning Away Report

I don't really need convincing. I am (and always have been) a big believer in the power of the outdoor and residential education to develop skills and discover abilities in young people.

At a time of massive cut backs it is important that we protect these experiences and continue to offer them as part of our school curriculums. It is important to remember that outdoor learning and residential education doesn't have to be expensive. I am always surprised at how many schools opt to go abroad rather than at first exploring their own back yard or local area.

At my school in Kingussie we have a nice programme of Residential Education. S1 (year 7) take part in a local experience within the Cairngorms National Park, S2 (year 8) have the opportunity to go to London for a more urban experience while S3 (year 9) can opt into the Social Subjects Trip to the Battlefields in France. We have thrown lots of other things into the mix as well. The school now has a thriving Duke of Edinburgh Award Programme, an established ski trip and there is an opportunity every other year for a senior group of pupils to visit our partner school in Muloza, Malawi. Plans to introduce experiences to China and Iceland are also slowly ticking along in the background.

As I have already said, I don't need convincing about this particular agenda.

But, for those that do, this recent report from Learning Away titled, 'Brilliant residentials and their impact on children, young people and schools: Making the case for high-quality residential learning' might help. 

Learning Away is a £2.25 million special initiative of Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

The report and its recommendations are well worth a read and make a strong case for the transformational power of residential learning opportunities:

"The evidence collected throughout the initiative shows that Learning Away residentials: foster deeper relationships between peers and between students and teachers; improve students’ resilience, self-confidence and wellbeing; boost cohesion and a sense of belonging; improve students’ engagement with learning; improve students’ knowledge, skills and understanding; support students’ achievement; smooth students’ transition experiences; provide opportunities for student leadership, co-design and facilitation; and widen and develop pedagogical skills."

For me, Sir Tim Brighouse (old friend) and former London Schools Commissioner sums it up pretty well in his forward

“80% of a child's waking time is outside of school, but when they are on a residential they are with you 100% of the time. You can cut yourself into a key to reach them in a way you cannot in everyday life.”

Couldn't agree more...

Magic Moments #25 – Intel Teach Advanced Online: Outdoor Learning⤴

from @ OllieBray.com

OB Magic moments

Through my work with Intel Education I've had the chance to meet a lot of teachers from all over Europe (and beyond) and we really have worked on some good projects over the years.

About a year ago my morning commute for Intel was a little shorter than normal and it was a real privilege to invite a group of European Teachers to the Cairngorms National Park where I had a chance to deliver the Intel Teach: Advanced Online Course with a focus on Outdoor Learning. It has become the first of many 'Kingussie Conferences'.

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Based from Aviemore, we welcomed teachers to Scotland from England, Sweden, Spain, Jordan, Bulgaria, Israel, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic, Turkey and Russia. We ran the theory sessions from the MacDonald Highland Resort and the practical sessions at the Highland Folk Museum, Cairngorm Mountain and at the Highland Wildlife Park. Lots of things were discussed over the three days of training including:

  • Using technology to prepare for outdoor learning opportunities;
  • Using technology during outdoor learning opportunities; and
  • Using technology to evaluate outdoor opportunities.

We talked GPS, Geocaching, Educaching, Mobile Apps, Digital Maps and lots of Google Earth. But most of all we talked a lot about teaching and learning and our common challenges with student engagement and school improvement across Europe. 

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Short write up from one of the Russia participants here.

 

Farewell⤴

from

After a few years of posting (2007) and a fair amount of hits (25000+) its time to bid farewell as I return to Outdoor Learning at East Lothian. New projects and other priorities & challenges mean it’s time to hang up my blogging guns for the moment.

Occasionaly any new posts will be part of the Outdoor Learning Service Blog

Thanks to everyone who has visited, commented, thrown a few mind grenades, helped my learning and inspired me to think differently.

Farewell⤴

from

After a few years of posting (2007) and a fair amount of hits (25000+) its time to bid farewell as I return to Outdoor Learning at East Lothian. New projects and other priorities & challenges mean it’s time to hang up my blogging guns for the moment.

Occasionaly any new posts will be part of the Outdoor Learning Service Blog

Thanks to everyone who has visited, commented, thrown a few mind grenades, helped my learning and inspired me to think differently.