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Living Simply, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

15 Proven Benefits of Outdoor Education – Part 1


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Snorkelling off Pink Beach, Flores (near Komodo Island), Indonesia

This is the first part of a three-part post on the benefits of outdoor education.

With classrooms being  ‘classes in rooms’, it can often mean that a young person spends the majority of their day surrounded by four walls, desks, chairs and screens. Time outside of this may be sport, music, dance, drama but apart from sport the rest are indoors, and even sport can be indoors (albeit active). What a young person loses is the time to be outdoors – to smell, to walk, to play, to touch, to climb, to stumble, to jump, to swing, to fall over and get up. In other words, to soak up being outdoors and just ‘being’ in the space and time of the outdoors.

So what are the benefits of outdoor education?

1. Better grades

Real life chess in Marostica, Italy

This is probably the number one sticking point for parents is that their child is spending less time learning and they are just ‘on camp’. Fortunately, the science shows that outdoor education in fact improves a students grades. Research from Dennis Eaton the author of Cognitive and Effective Learning in Outdoor Education finds that the cognitive abilities of students develop better outside the classroom rather than in. In fact, the science suggests that students who are regularly involved in outdoor education have marked improvements in the basic skills of reading, writing and math.

2. Increased motivation

Learning to scuba drive (aged 12 on the left) of Mengangan Island, Indonesia.

After spending time outdoors, science has shown that students’ motivation levels carry over into indoor learning. Being in the outdoors is a powerful as it tugs at a young persons senses. They can focus on detail and describe something far better when outdoors than indoors. However, this also carries over into the classroom after time spent on an outdoor education program.

The physical change of pace and place that happens when outdoors is motivating in itself. Everyone needs variety.

(more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Sugarloaf Saddle – Cathedral Ranges State Park


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I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management, tree hazard checks, managing the toilets and facilities. The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience.

Access
You can access Sugarloaf Saddle via The Mt. Margaret Road from Marysville or via Buxton. I’ll assume you are coming off the Maroondah Highway. Make your way to the Cooks Mill camping ground located off the Little River Road. Access with a 2wd is fine, albeit a little bumpy on the road in. Follow the signage west to Sugarloaf Saddle. It’s a little steep and doable in a 2wd but it’s a rocky and bumpy road. From Melbourne head east through Healesville and through the mountainous Black Spur. Once you have left the Maroondah Highway and have driven north of Buxton, you will see the signposted turn off to the Ranges. (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Camping at The Farmyard – Cathedral Ranges State Park


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I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management and tree hazard checks, The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience.

There are a number of campsites in the Farmyard area much of which is shady amongst tall beautiful Peppermint, Blackwood and Red Stringybark gums with the sound of lyrebirds imitating chain saws in the background.

The splendid, high-peaked ridge of the Cathedral Range offers spectacular walks and rock climbing routes to suit all levels of fitness and ability. The Cathedral Range is recovering from the extensive damage caused by the 2009 Black Saturday fires when 92% of the park was burnt. There is a pleasant old sawmill clearing (partially vegetated) sheltered in a forested valley near the bubbling Little River. This 3577 hectare park offers you a range of activities from relaxed camping by a clear mountain stream to an exciting climb to its high exposed peaks.Camping feeCaravan accessNo dogs/petsNo rubbish disposalPicnic areaRangerSpecial campsite (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Camping at Neds Gully – Cathedral Ranges State Park


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I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management, tree hazard checks, managing the toilets and facilities. The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience. (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Camping at Cooks Mill – Cathedral Ranges State Park


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I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management, tree hazard checks, managing the toilets and facilities. The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience.

Satin Bower Bird home

There are a number of campsites in the Cooks Mills area much of which is shady amongst tall beautiful Peppermint, Blackwood and Red Stringybark gums with the sound of the Little River bubbling in the background. (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Lake Mountain Alpine Resort in Summer


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Lake Mountain is known for its excellent cross country ski trails during the winter months but it has more to offer than just snow and tobogganing when the weather warms up. Only two hours from Melbourne, it’s a hit with skiers but these days has become more popular with bushwalkers and mountain bike riders. With over 30 kms of trails, that weave their way amongst the snowgums, the stunning heathland, the wild flowers and natural beauty of an alpine environment – there is something for everyone.

Helicopter Flat looking south

I’ve worked at this mountain as a professional ski guide and as a recreational skier since 1989 and I knew it inside out. But after the 2009 fires, I couldn’t visit Marysville let alone the mountain for some years. Fortunately, I made my way up to the mountain more recently and was pleasantly surprised by the infrastructure and regrowth that has happened in nine years. (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Outdoor Education – what can you do as a parent/student – Part 2 of 2


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Following on from my post a week ago (go here), this is the upside of the things you can do for your children (or if you’re a student – for yourself) that are simple and easy and frankly, you and I probably did when we were kids.

  • Make your kids to chores. It seems fundamental but these days, most homes have dishwashers, so many families have a cleaner come in once a week / fortnight (you know that time when you ask the kids to clean up the mess in their rooms because the cleaner is coming the next day), where we outsource dog walking, gardening, car cleaning and so on. Research has shown that chores foster interpersonal skills, improve mental health, create empathy and build on responsibility. More importantly, doing chores develops gratitude in children.

    My kids doing the camping dishes
  • Demonstrate and practice with your children how to peel and chop everyday vegetables. I’m not talking about kale or squash – more onions, potatoes, carrots, capsicums and so on. When a student cuts a carrot 1cm thick and is then disappointed when it’s still crunchy after a stir fry, you’ll be able to help them think ahead.
  • Let your children know that everyday chores (like cooking for some of us) are laborious, monotonous and boring. Be prepared to work against the self-concerned nature of children and work on developing a sense of social justice within them.
  • Have your children do the dishes. I remember taking my kids away when they were 3, 5 and 7 and realised they didn’t know how to wash or dry dishes because we had a dishwasher. Here started the lesson and by the end of two weeks they were experts. In particular, focus on hygiene and as always – try to make it fun.
  • Let your children pack their own gear. Take the list provided by the school, the scout group, the church group and have them lay all of it out on their bed. Then they can tick it off as they put it into their bag. Support and help them but don’t pack it for them as once they are in the field they’ll have to do it themselves anyway and they’ll be one step ahead of the pack.
  • You may not agree with everything on the gear list but stick to the list. Items such as sunblock, broad-brimmed hat, gloves, no cotton clothes, wide-mouthed water bottle and so on have been put there for a reason. People like myself have been in the industry a long time and we know what works best and what doesn’t. By all means query the list with the staff member involved, otherwise – stick to the list!
  • Don’t impart your anxiety or fears onto your children. You may not like camping or carrying a pack, but don’t underestimate your child. Ask open questions like ‘what was the food like?’, ‘did you sleep well?’, ‘did you make any new friends?’ instead of ‘it must’ve been terrible walking in the cold weather!’ OR ‘sleeping on the ground is dreadful isn’t it?’ OR my favourite ‘it must have been hard to walk with that heavy pack!’ No presuppositions. Only queries please.
  • Don’t be a helicopter parent. Let them make mistakes. Forget things. Lose things. Be mean. Be kind. Be helpful. Be rude. Get anxious. Get scared. Find their feet. As a parent – we can be so busy giving our kids everything we didn’t have, we forget to give them everything we did have. (see this post). If you think you’re a helicopter parent then you probably not looked upon fondly by staff due to your high needs and expectations, often over inflated value on things that are considered ordinary and most of which you project is about yourself not your child. B
    Mum showing how to chop veggies

    it tough? Yep but it’s something we deal with everyday.

  • So they forgot their lunch and water bottle for the first day of camp. Don’t chase the bus down and give it to them. Let them problem solve it. They won’t starve or dehydrate. That’s part of the learning. If you continually ‘rescue’ them then that’s what they’ll expect for the rest of their lives.
  • Don’t underestimate the awesomeness within your child/ren. I wish I could make an individual video for every parent and show them how their child consistently rises to the challenge. Most of the time, they put up their tent with their mates. They prepare a meal with others. They help out those they can see struggling. Or they ask for help if they need it. They ask good questions of staff. When we as parents step back and let our children be children you’d be surprised how amazing they are. Give them that chance.
  • Allow them to receive feedback and that there might have negative consequences for their actions. This instills in them the concept of mutual respect and the rights and interests of others. It sits uncomfortable as a parent but it’s essential to their growth.
  • Their outdoor education experience is their experience, not yours. Don’t presume or preempt what may or may not have happened.
  • Do expect that your child will come home tired, hungry and smelly. Don’t mention it. That’s part of being on program. Ask them before they go on their trip what they’d like for dinner when they return – favourites I know of are: roast, sushi, lasagna, Thai food, pizza or fruit salad.
  • Don’t be surprised by the lack of dirty clothes. When you’re living outdoors you tend to wear the same things over and over again (particularly boys – I have a son!). For a five-day program you only see a couple of pairs of underwear and one t-shirt – don’t worry. They were doing exactly what they should have – lived in the moment and disregarded fashion.
  • It’s not your experience – it’s theirs. Let their stories unfold when they return. They may not bubble out of them straight away or you may not be able to shut them up. Allow their stories be their stories. Quiz them. Challenge them. Encourage them. Look to the growth within the time they’ve spent away rather than the negative.
  • My final tip is – do not let them take any technology on a program. This is the one chance to disconnect from the WWW and reconnect with themselves and others around them. Anyway, the network is often available anyway and they’ll run out of charge within 24 hours. These days we are all so used to being able to speak to our kids, look up what the weather is doing next week, find out footy scores, Google anything – but I beg you to give your child the space to just ‘be’. Allow them to soak up their environment without the distractions from technology and you. As a parent, I know this can be hard but believe me, it’s worth it for them and for you.

Now it’s your turn. How have you found your experiences send your children off on camp? How have they coped? What advice would you offer other parents. Please leave a comment below.