This week our Year 8 students are on their Outdoor Education week in the national park of Khao Yai, and I have been reflecting on the statement, ‘Your comfort zone can become your prison’. Whilst none of us want to be unnecessarily uncomfortable, I feel there is truth in this assertion. As educators we try to give our students regular opportunities to learn at the edge of their comfort zones. Although this attitude pervades the classroom, the sports fields and the stage, it is perhaps at its most obvious to children when they go on their Round Square and Outdoor Education weeks.
As someone afraid of heights, I remember joining our students as they climbed a very tall tree to a high wire ‘flying fox’ on the island of Ko Chang. Although I had a harness on I almost turned back, until one student shouted, “Go on sir, there’s more in you than you think!” (quoting Kurt Hahn, founder of the Round Square organization of which the school is a part). It was the inspiration and encouragement I needed to complete the task and overcome my limiting fear. Outdoor Education has always been an important part of our curriculum, not just the testing of one’s nerve, but also for the wonderful educational opportunities presented by the great outdoors. Too many schools forget that young people need to connect to their natural world – it is hard to promote environmental awareness without seeing, smelling and feeling the wonders of nature.
Over the course of the year all our secondary students will have spent a week at Khao Yai national park. They climb, canoe, camp, cook and cycle. They ride, run, raft and re-cycle. They learn not only about their own capabilities, but how to support others too. They always make us proud and return knowing there is more in them than they thought.