Outdoor Education Programs

Plan some excitement for the program. Every lesson should be stimulating and memorable.

Plan some excitement for the program. Every lesson should be stimulating and memorable.

memorable. There must be a balance between activity and talk, but the more activity the better. However, the pursuit of excitement need not be shallow and meaningless; there can be a “wow factor” in some of the most important educational experiences. And consider the subtle but profound lessons found in jokes, stories, and songs.

5.) A new attitude. This is the affective, hard-to-measure side of the impact on students. The hope is that participants discover a sense of what teamwork, communication, and cooperative effort are all about. This sense of group should lead to a new enthusiasm for learning in general. Students should be more aware of the natural world, form a positive bond with it, and have some sense of stewardship and concern for it. This affective aspect is important for two reasons. First, it is absolutely the foundation for the effective–content-oriented and testable–side of education. It’s safe to say the stronger the inspirational and attitudinal foundation is, the higher likelihood there will be academic achievement. Second, this approach is often difficult to accomplish in a formal classroom setting.

6.) Additional skills. Part of the formal education goal is to address the standards selected, but new skills, experiences, and other knowledge can be gained also. These might include learning about ecology, plants and wildlife, skills in archery or canoeing, or safety rules related to a ropes course. Pre-experience and post-experience knowledge also may be part of the content.

7.) An effective outcome. What the participants do after the program should be a part of the plan. You want participants to be able to articulate their accomplishments. This might be a phrase or a mission statement or a short list they can repeat. It might include some goals for change, especially for what might happen when they return to school. The hope is that people talk–whether in person or via social media–to friends, family, and classmates, sharing the positive impact of the program.

A Word About Money

Perhaps you have no ROEE program at present, but someone has called with a program offer. Or you are considering joining a competition for a business. Or maybe the board has asked you to consider the idea. Or a previous program might be resurrected. Or an activity at the facility is just begging for a school program. Starting a ROEE program is no small chore, even if it’s only for a short while, or for a small group.

In fact, operating a ROEE program on a limited scale and then having to end it may be reason enough to avoid the program in the first place. But it also will be richly rewarding, fun, and one of the greatest things you and your team could ever do. In any case, don’t sugarcoat the facts or the dollars; let them be a real part of the discussion.

Do not expect ROEE to be a cash cow. These programs are hardly ever money makers, and most are somehow subsidized by other programs, an organization outreach, or grants. A certain revenue volume is needed just to break even. Most programs must constantly make tough choices about how to spend their money, and a wish list may remain a wish list for a long time. Furthermore, a ROEE program should not be run with the intention of using its revenue to subsidize other programs.

Do not move forward without a thorough justification. Passion and ideas are great. Some influx of money is nice, of course. It’s wonderful to have the right facility. It’s fantastic to have school groups ready to come. None of these factors alone will cut it, though. Your unique program can come to life if enough cylinders are working in the engine, and the fuel is there to keep it running. You must do the homework. Look for a balance between the wisdom of common experience and the unique genius of your specific place.

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