Teaching Treasures™ Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education Articles

Obesity, School Camps & Paedophiles

Our Obesity Problem

Yesterday I was reading about the issue of the large amount of people (including children) being overweight. According to www.news-medical.net, obesity and overweight people have in the last decade become a global problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO - www.who.int) back in 2005 approximately 1.6 billion adults over the age of 15 were overweight, at least 400 million adults were obese, and at least 20 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight. Experts believe if the current trends continue by 2015 approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese. The scale of the obesity problem has a number of serious consequences for individuals and government health systems.

This really is an alarming issue and I believe there is a desperate need to encourage our young and old to adventure outdoors more often. I believe that we can learn so much from each other and outdoor adventure programs are in essence designed to rejuvenate that love for the outdoors. So I wonder if you would agree with me by saying that: "Outdoor recreation could be the best obesity problem solver there is!"

We must keep our children or students active while learning. However, there is a desperate need to keep ourselves active too, how else are we to keep up with these fit youngsters and continue teaching them? We need to live by example and being fit and active ourselves is a good thing. Most teachers look for an opportunity to develop teambuilding skills with their students and to push them beyond their boundaries in other words, to help them learn new skills outside their familiar surroundings. Bearing that in mind, using outdoor adventure learning camps to facilitate these learning outcomes would have to be the ideal choice.

School Camps

I was reading the other day on the NSW Department of Education and Training web site (www.det.nsw.edu.au/ ) that the educational value and purpose of activities should deliver the following: “Engage and challenge all participants to discover and develop their individual talents and capabilities for lifelong learning. Develop positive self-concepts for all participants. Encourage active, effective and responsible participation for all participants. Respect the importance of moral, ethical and spiritual differences for all participants. Implement the enjoyment of learning for all participants and encourage them to be self-motivated, reflective, competent learners. Promote a fair and just society that values diversity and assist with the continuity and coherence of learning, and facilitate the transition between learning levels for all participants.”

I guess easier said than done would be the consensus here unless you can dig up an outdoor activity provider who will deliver all of the above and hopefully more. Personally, I believe that all educational activities should deliver academic, artistic, and social aspects in each program using a creative learning process. The emphasis here is on creativity, uniqueness and the ability for outdoor instructors to keep their participants for the entire length of time that the program runs for. If you have paid for a 4-hour canoeing session for your students, they should get 4 hours and not 2.5 or 3 hours. If you have booked in for a 4 hour low ropes session then your students should get that time and the instructor should not loose the group after a couple of hours or less.

Parents pay a lot of money for these outings and they should get value for money. Teachers spend a lot of time organising these camps so they too should get value for their effort. Simply put…  you should get value for your money so search for the right place to take your students because if you don't.... you or your students will not have benefited from any of these outdoor learning activities from these providers.

Having looked at the statistics for obesity and the general decline of health for school children one must wonder if outdoor learning should be taken more seriously. According to the Outdoor Learning Org. (www.outdoor-learning.org/) outdoor learning is really a very broad term which includes outdoor play in the early years, school projects, environmental education, recreational and adventure activities, personal and social development programs, expeditions, team building, leadership training, management development, education for sustainability, and even adventure therapy.

I would have to agree with Outdoor Learning Org. in that outdoor learning does not really have a clearly defined boundary however, it does have one common core in that all forms of outdoor learning value direct experience. This experience is in stark contrast to the indoor classroom. I believe that outdoor learning is the process of active learning in the outdoors. With active learning I mean that participants learn through what they do, through what they are confronted or challenged with and through what they discover.

They learn about the outdoors, they learn about themselves and about others while also learning outdoor skills through investigation, experimentation, providing feedback, reflecting on happenings, reviewing situations and of course team building and cooperative learning. Looking at all of this I think that most readers would agree that outdoor learning is true learning because participants use natural environments to see, hear, touch and smell the real thing. They use actions that will deliver and experience results and consequences. Outdoor learning provides for participants to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities. They have to manage risks, cope with change, behavioural issues and have the potential to discover abilities and interests they didn’t even realise existed.

In a nutshell… outdoor learning can help to bring classroom-based subjects alive, stimulate unexplored interests and in essence is not limited. Of course the most important issue with any outdoor learning activity are the safety codes and codes of conduct. These safety codes and codes of conduct are usually found in a business' Child-safe Child-friendly Policy and Code of Conduct statement and provides clear boundaries and should be adhered to at all times by all participating school children but should also be adhered to by teachers, parents, caregivers, and activity providers with no exception.

© 2012 Griggs I. M. - Teaching Treasures Publications

Child Safety

Outdoor learning should be delivered in a safe environment. Child safety checks should be done. For example in New South Wales you would visit the NSW Commission for Children and Young People either online (www.check.kids.nsw.gov.au/) or in person at their office in Surry Hills NSW. They will tell you who is prohibited from working with children. Basically a person who has been convicted or found guilty of a listed serious offence against children (whether in NSW or elsewhere) is prohibited from child-related employment. And also anyone registrable under the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 is prohibited from child-related employment.

It is an offence for prohibited persons to apply for or attempt to obtain, undertake or remain in child-related employment in any capacity, whether paid, volunteering or self employed. Teachers taking their students to outdoor centres should question the validity of management and staff. Rumours may sometimes be just that but why do rumours start? Perhaps there really are not so nice people at the helm. Look at issues such as paedophilia and physical, mental, or sexual harassment. Let us look at those issues more closely and also at the sadness of the fact that sometimes working with children clearance means just that. A clearance on paper but in reality that person simply has not been caught yet or not convicted yet.

I think we can all agree on the fact that outdoor learning is more motivating and provides a stimulating impact in most cases. It has been debated whether or not outdoor learning has more credibility as far as learning is concerned, so I think I will leave this issue up to you as a reader to decide. Credibility through skilled teaching or being able to facilitate an outdoor experience has certainly proven in the past that outdoor experiences are a better stimulating source of fascination and personal growth for the participants.

Some may argue that outdoor learning is a breakthrough in learning but I beg to differ. We haven’t always had formal, compulsory classroom based schooling. Over the centuries most great explorations have been achieved outside the classroom so to state that outdoor learning is a new breakthrough in learning would be incorrect. I believe that outdoor learning is the process of active learning in the outdoors but with that risks are attached. Teachers taking their students to outdoor centres should question the validity of management and staff and look at issues such as those who display signs of a psychopath, paedophile, sociopath, covert aggressive, physical, mental, or sexual harassments.

The Manager’s Smokescreen

I will now look at those issues more closely and also at the sadness of the fact that sometimes working with children clearance means just that. A clearance on paper perhaps but in reality that person simply has not been caught yet or not convicted yet. For example the staff employed may be perfectly alright however, the manager may be a paedophile or dare I say may even display psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies and uses good staff as a smokescreen to cover up his bad intentions. Does management look after their personnel or staff and are they paid and treated properly?

If staff are treated poorly, unfairly or with contempt then be rest assured you will receive low quality, low caring activity standards from your outdoor provider. Low standards are often not because the staff are inadequately trained but rather because management is not doing the right thing. How often is staff checked for working with children? Perhaps staff are checked regularly but who checks up on the big boss? Who checks the manager? Most likely…. no one. He just disappears under a smokescreen, quietly moves about his business and in the process wreaks havoc among innocent children, staff, parents, the community, and society in general.

A psychopath (sociopath or covert aggressive) in a management position is extremely dangerous. He may seem like a nice, amiable sort of a person when you first meet him but this is all a facade. Underneath he is anything but nice, a menace to society and a threat to our children. A psychopathic boss often uses intimidation to clamp down on any staff member who is ready to blow the whistle. He will also use phrases such as: "It is so difficult to get good staff these days." He will always blame his staff for his inadequacies; refer to his staff as being lazy, unreliable or not able to follow commands. He will always use the blame-shift tactics.

You may wonder how I managed to get so sidetracked from the original topic of  "Outdoor Learning." You see my previous statement that outdoor learning should be delivered in a safe environment sparked all of this. A safe outdoor environment is absolutely necessary for any child to learn outdoor skills. Taking children out of the classroom and into outdoor learning situations will open many doors for unscrupulous people who will take advantage of young girls and boys and who have no conscience or remorse. Just because a certain person has been in the outdoor industry for ten years or more does not mean he is ok. Just because someone has working with children clearance does not mean he is ok. It just means he has not been caught yet doing the wrong thing. A person whose personal and sexual behaviour is regarded as abnormal and unacceptable and regarded as a pervert requires action, therefore we need to identify and expose these people.

Identify the Perverts

To continue on the issue regarding psychopaths, sociopaths, paedophiles or covert aggressive people in the outdoor industry, perhaps you wonder how you can identify these people who are not suitable for the delivery of outdoor learning activities. Take a look at the manager or the boss who runs the business, organisation or not-for-profit group. Can he keep his staff? Does he have a large turnover of staff? Does he blame the large turnover of his staff on "seasonable working conditions?" This by the way is probably another one of his many lies.

Is his current staff happy to be there or are they just putting on a fake happy face because they need to keep their job? Is he married, divorced, living in a de-facto relationship? If he is single who is his girlfriend, how old is she, who is she? You may say that all of this is irrelevant but I do not believe it is. Teachers have the responsibility to take care of those children entrusted to their care by the parents. How would you feel if it came to light that one of those young girls was sexually molested by the manager of the outdoor centre or by the activity provider?

Therefore it is your duty to make sure you choose a safe environment for your outdoor learning adventure program and provide for the physical and mental care of each child that is placed under your wings for protection. To come back to the issue of listening to rumours, it may be in your best interest as a teacher to listen but also to make informed decisions. Don’t just listen to one person, ask around. Ask staff such as cleaners, maintenance guys, cooks, gardeners, instructors, and anyone else floating about who works there or has worked there in the past. Ask about the boss? Is he ok or does he have serious issues. If staff will not give you a direct and honest answer up front, rest assured that there is something terribly wrong. No person should be afraid to tell you what a wonderful boss she or he has!

No person should be afraid to sing praises about the great job and working conditions she or he has. They are afraid however to speak up if they are threatened of loosing their job, not receiving their rightful pay or worse, be subjected to mental or sexual harassment. Many people will not speak up for themselves because they need the job in order to pay the bills and it is hard enough to get a job so the last thing they want is to loose it. I guess their manipulating psycho-boss has them literally working in limbo land (or hell).

Coming back to the fact that outdoor learning is more motivating than classroom based learning and that it provides a stimulating impact, in most cases this is correct however, it really should read positive motivation. It should definitely include the word positive. If a child were subjected to sexual or mental harassment it would definitely provide a stimulating impact but definitely not in a positive way. It could cause irreversible damage, bring about many psychological problems in the future and ruin a child’s chance in life.

Sexual or Mental Harassment

How do we identify these perpetrators who commit sexual or mental harassment? They often work in management positions – alone. They can’t keep good staff – good staff always leaves and often without receiving their proper pay. Your gut feeling tells you that something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. They promise the world but deliver balderdash. I think I am going to divert a little here but I believe it is important for the safety of children and adults alike. The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) is a diagnostic tool used to rate a person's psychopathic or antisocial tendencies.

The diagnostic tool points out that people who are psychopathic will prey ruthlessly on others using their charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get what they want. The symptoms of psychopathic behaviour includes: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others. According to Mind Disorders (www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Hare-Psychopathy-Checklist.html) the twenty traits assessed by the PCL-R score are:

•glib and superficial charm
•grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
•need for stimulation
•pathological lying
•cunning and manipulative
•lack of remorse or guilt
•shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
•callousness and lack of empathy
•parasitic lifestyle
•poor behavioural controls
•sexual promiscuity
•early behaviour problems
•lack of realistic long-term goals
•failure to accept responsibility for own actions
•many short-term marital relationships
•juvenile delinquency
•revocation of conditional release
•criminal versatility

What Some Call Gossip

Now, unless you spend some time with a person it will be difficult to determine many of the above character traits so I think that we should listen to what some may call gossip. We should hear what is being said and come to a conclusion which will determine your next step.

So dare I repeat myself? "Of course the most important issue with any outdoor learning activity are the safety codes and codes of conduct. These safety codes and codes of conduct provide clear boundaries and should be adhered to at all times by all participating school children but should also be adhered to by teachers, parents, caregivers, and activity providers with no exception. Outdoor learning should be delivered in a safe environment."

In order to finalise my issues regarding psychopaths, sociopaths, paedophiles, covert aggressive people and unscrupulous managers in the outdoor industry, I must stress the following point. Please do not discount all outdoor adventure learning providers should you encounter one rogue provider. And certainly don’t lump all outdoor adventure learning providers in the same category. There are many good ones out there, many family orientated providers and fantastic, fun filled instructors.

It is the same old adage… one rotten apple tends to spoil the whole lot. Don’t let this happen as children will start losing their outdoor learning opportunities all too soon and we have fought long and hard for these opportunities to finally become part of our curriculum and aspirations for a wholesome learning environment.

Expose the Paedophile

A good outdoor provider is one who insists on children wearing appropriate clothing. A paedophile instructor for example will be happy enough for children to wear skimpy, floppy shorts or t-shirts so that when they participate in an activity he has the opportunity to view something he shouldn't. For example; climbing activities including upside down or crawling exercises, water activities such as sit-on tops or kayaks where children's legs are parted and all is in plain view of the paedophile instructor.

A good outdoor provider does not blame his staff for everything. Does not lurk in the dark, does not spy on girls or boys in the amenity block. Does not unnecessary touch in inappropriate places, does not allow skimpy clothing such as extremely short shorts. Or in the case of a water sport such as canoeing or kayaking allow bikini tops or pfd's with just the bikini bottoms on and no decent shorts. Does not allude to sexual references, gestures or the like and does not pretend to be something he isn't etc. etc.

Perhaps by now you have understood where I am coming from. Perhaps you have experienced some or all of what has been penned down so far. Perhaps it is time for you take action and put a stop to this terrible behaviour which is happening to your children. Don't be afraid to try out a new provider if you suspect your current provider. Just because you have used the same outdoor provider for several years doesn't mean that the place is ok. Perhaps you have heard rumours and perhaps these rumours are right! Open your eyes if you go on camp with your classroom and watch what goes on. Listen to the conversations of your students and watch those kids who suddenly become withdrawn or quiet. What has happened!

It is your responsibility to care for those placed in your trust. When a manager or instructor boasts about the number of girls supposedly asking him if he would like to sleep with them then you can bet that you are dealing with a very evil man and that you will need to take action. When a manager or instructor boasts about what he has seen on some of these camps... again, you are dealing with a very evil man and you will need to take action. Please listen to your conscience and protect those who can not protect themselves.

Having raised a number of problems regarding outdoor industry providers and the things you should look out for, I thought I would now start digging up some good points in favour of the outdoor industry. Of course the best outcome in taking your class to an outdoor camp is the physical exercise and the team building which takes place over several days.

Outdoor Activities

Outdoor providers should strive to deliver a creative learning process by catering for the needs of each individual and to provide academic, artistic, and social aspects in each program through active participation. If they don’t promote this then they are sadly lacking in my opinion. Staff who provide the activities should be trained in first aid and CPR and carry a first-aid kit during activity time. Of course schools will always need to provide their own that contains the medication or equipment needed for their students.

Instructors should specify that they take child protection issues extremely serious and all staff should have undergone stringent ‘Working with Children’ checks and abide by a code of conduct. Because each group of participants has different needs, outdoor providers should be flexible and be able and willing to adjust their program to suit your needs. As far as activities are concerned these should contain outcomes to complement your curriculum.

For example bush walking could contain some or all of the following: Duty of care, codes of ethics, planning process for bush walking, cause & effect of decision-making, maps, compass, navigation, orientation, landmarks, emergency procedures, walking techniques & skills, health, safety & welfare of self & others, behavioural & social issues, recognise individual strengths and limitations, environment, public & private land, teambuilding & cooperation, minimize risk, observation skills, minimal impact, safe toileting practices, food & drinking water requirements, skill, experience, physical fitness, communicate ideas & information, and personal equipment.

If you like water activities such as canoeing then outcomes such as these could be part of the program: Flat and white water, duty of care, codes of ethics, minimal impact, planning process for canoeing, cause & effect of decision making, appropriate clothing, water safety issues, hypothermia, dehydration, paddling strokes, equipment handling, white water hazards, entrapments in watercraft, natural & unnatural strainers, rocks & obstacles, safe toilet practices, emergency procedures, communication and signals, behavioural & social issues, teambuilding skills, recognise individual strengths and limitations, health, safety and welfare of self and others.

Of course water safety should always be delivered before any water activity so these outcomes could be found in their program: Duty of care, equipment handling, team building, hydraulics & river mechanics, white water hazards, foot entrapments, defensive swimming techniques, communication, signals, roping skills, rescue techniques, throw bags, vector pull, mechanical advantages, cause & effect of decision making, health, safety and welfare of self and others, recognise individual strengths and limitations.

To summarise my thoughts; outdoor learning can help bring classroom-based subjects alive, stimulate unexplored interests and in essence is not limited. Although student learning outcomes are important, the most important issues with any outdoor learning activity are the safety codes and codes of conduct. These safety codes and codes of conduct are usually found in a business' Child-safe Child-friendly Policy and Code of Conduct statement, provides clear boundaries and should be adhered to at all times by all participating school children but should also be adhered to by teachers, parents, caregivers, and activity providers with no exception. Be safe on your next school camp!

© 2012 Griggs I. M. - Teaching Treasures Publications

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