Outdoor Education and Learning students share their adventures of a residential experience
Our guest blogger this week is Dave Girling, Programme Leader of the BA (Hons) Outdoor Education and Learning degree based at Perth College UHI.
Follow Dave - and his students - as he shares the adventures of a #OutEdLearn residential experience.
We are on a student-led residential and the students have chosen to grace the beautiful island of Islay. This is the culmination of the ‘Residential Outdoor Education’ module which has included link ups with Oman, Czech Republic and the USA - with invited guest speakers from the private, public and third sectors.
The sun beats down onto this remote beach on Islay where we are creating beach art. Some individual small projects, some large group pictures, some using natural materials and some plastics - all led by the students.
Waking for sunrise on our third day, we watch the sun arrive over the sea. An orange hue projects onto the sand dunes illuminating them like a cinema screen. The smell of bacon wafts in the smoke from the student’s fire pit, where I can hear the itinerary for the day being discussed: a session looking at communication through beach art, a reflective walk along the 7km beach ‘The Strand’ and organisational skills investigated through stand up paddleboarding (SUP). Then on to an evening slackline session to culminate the residential experience before our ferry home tomorrow.
As we munch on bacon rolls (always with brown sauce, anything else is sacrilege in my opinion!), the group discuss the topics of the day: investigation into the environment we live and work in; understanding of our character; and opportunities for self-growth, reflection and facilitation. The students have aligned these topics with activities that mirror their aims.
This is all wrapped up in a residential experience - eating, sleeping, cooking and living together for a prolonged period of time - whilst experiencing the highs and lows of community living. Only on the last night, the students had a disagreement which provided the raw material for an inspiring walk along the beach enabling the students to set conversational tasks, activities and reflective opportunities. The students arrived at their next session illuminated, engaged and conjoined as a group. Just as well…as we are heading into the sea to SUP!
When your student leader asks you to put on a blindfold - whilst you hold a paddle, standing on a beach alongside a paddle-board - you know it is about to go left field!
Fast forward two minutes to find me placing the paddle in the water and I hear ‘PULL’, as my partner who is squatting behind me guides us through the crashing waves and rolling sea. Expertly guided to our new location, we were challenged to create an SUP raft which enabled us to use our organisational skills.
During the time we have spent in Perth over the last year, the students have been exploring new technical skills; investigating land management; considering environmental impact; studying facilitation and reviewing techniques; and delving into the relationship between psychology and coaching - amongst many other areas.
As I took pictures of the group slack-lining in the bluebell woods, a feeling of pride sank in - alongside privilege to be able to join the students on this residential and their physical and metaphorical journey.
It was clear to see the depth of learning and investment the students have engaged in, and the effect this is having upon their practice. Beautiful artistic environmental sessions on the beach, a reflective journey along the length of ‘The Strand’ and a SUP session taking the technical skill and adapting it into a development opportunity. I find myself sitting here watching the slackline adventures to the noise whistling through the trees of laughter, encouragement and active engaged learning.
This is the life of the BA (Hons) Outdoor Education and Learning students here in Perth. Why not come and join us? Applications are still open for September. The course is suitable for Early Year through to Adult Outdoor Learning Professionals.