Outdoor Education – what is it, what do we do and how do we measure success?
11 February 2021
Outdoor Education is termed Adventure at Windermere School.
This is due to School being part of Round Square and Adventure being one of the IDEALS pillars – Internationalism, Democracy, Environmentalism, Adventure, Leadership and Service.
Our innovative Adventure programme sets Windermere School apart. It allows students to push their personal boundaries and develop the extra skills that are so vital for a successful life beyond the school gates. Generally, but not exclusively, this takes the form of adventure activities – sailing, paddle sports, climbing, caving, walking and biking.
Students realise that they are capable of more than they could ever imagine. They are inspired to embrace challenges and become well-rounded, resilient, confident and independent thinkers. The early years at Elleray forms the foundation of Outdoor Education with Forest Schools and as students enter Year 3 they begin a programme of Junior Adventure which continues until Year 9 at Browhead with Senior Adventure. Elleray students have one lesson every week. One of these has a focus on Adventure. The other lesson is Adventurous Learning. The class tutor manages this and is supported by the Outdoor Education team. Browhead has an Adventure lesson every other week.
In an ever-changing world young people need to be adaptable. Supporting the academic subjects, our Adventure Programme enables students to develop a Growth Mindset. It aims to produce individuals that are not only confident, tenacious, independent, and happy, but resilient; willing to fail and try again. Thus, allowing children to maximise their potential in all areas of life, including academia.
One of the challenges with Outdoor Education is measuring its success. Something that is very easy to explain, but a little harder to demonstrate. There are no tests which show that X is now more resilient or confident than X was two years ago. That development is seen and known by the child, his or her parents, their tutor, and teachers. However, did that come from a programme of Adventure or school and home life; quite probably a combination of everything. There is no doubt though that the skills developed in Adventure lessons contribute to Windermere School students’ mindset. In five years at School, and thirty-four years working in the Outdoor industry, I have seen huge personal development in many students. What is different at Windermere is continuity, the Outdoor Education staff know the students extremely well and have the ability to speak to and regularly teach each student. The relationship with tutors, fellow teachers and parents that supports the development of our students – your children. Many schools employ external staff for an outdoor education programme. Whilst high quality they do not have the long-term relationship the Windermere School Outdoor team have with our students.
The following text, in italics, is written by two students that left the school recently. Both were heavily involved in outdoor activities at the School and, as Mr Lavender encourages they opted in not out’.
Outdoor education was a huge part of my time at school. Having the outdoors as a regular emotional outlet helped me to really grow as a person and achieve things that I am proud of. Being given the opportunity to regularly be out climbing on a crag or windsurfing on the lake gave me a sense of freedom and a chance to reset. My mind became more focused. I believe that some of the most meaningful lessons you learn in life can only be taught through experience, that is what outdoor education at Windermere gave to me. I learned how to put things into perspective, learn the value of determination and the feeling of accomplishment.
Climbing became a big part of my time at school. I am so grateful that we were given so many opportunities over the years, these contributing to some of my most meaningful memories from my time at Windermere. Looking back to when I first joined the school compared to when I left, I can appreciate how much I have matured and increased in confidence. Having the outdoors as a focus allowed me to see myself improve at something and this gave me a feeling of self-worth. Being in the outdoors has been one of the biggest contributors to improving my mental health and enabled me to make the most of school life and enjoy it! Outdoor education at Windermere has made me a better, stronger and more resilient person and I am so grateful to look back on everything I have been able to experience and to be proud of how far I have come. – Isla H
Let’s just say a lot has changed since I first joined Windermere school. I was worryingly bad at academic subjects, shy and cocky amongst other things.
I find it hard to put down on paper how outdoor education has affected my life and you would probably be reading a novel if I did, but it has, and I am going to give you a brief insight. I am not talking about the hundreds of adventures I have been on at Windermere, or how well I developed in outdoor sports. Outdoor education has changed a lot about me, giving me the ability to understand that there is no need to show off and boast, because people could see and understand what I was capable of and climbing helped me with this, a lot.
In Year 7 on a snowy evening, I was dragging a kayak up a steep hill then tobogganing down with a group of older students and this is one of my earliest memories at Windermere. Looking back, this was the start of the adventure for me. Even though I never understood it then, it taught me a lot about determination and perseverance pulling and pushing that boat up the hill. But this wasn’t just a one-time event which has made this change in my life, lots of different events occurred where times got hard and I’ve pushed on. For example, falling off a bike and getting back on it, or falling off a climb and being really scared and having another go. This is probably the main contributing factor to me achieving half decent GCSEs.
Looking back at my time at Windermere, I am grateful for all the opportunities I have been able to experience and encourage everyone to get involved. – Jack D
We have a logbook at School that enables our students to measure their progress. Students receive this in Year 3 and continue to use it until the end of Year 9, some until they leave School. The following photos are extracts from a couple of our student’s logbooks. There are six awards that can be gained during the time at Elleray and Browhead. Those that complete the 6th level – the Ernest Shackleton Award have demonstrated excellent skills in many activities. However, what is important is the learning taking place while students increase their skills in an environment that promotes development.
When students complete a level, they are awarded a badge that can be pinned to their blazer.
There are many opportunities for students to develop skills at School. There are residential trips for those in Year 3 to Year 8. Extra-curricular trips include the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme, Round Square Adventure Race, Islands Peak Race, climbing trips abroad, sailing trips and racing and after school activities. Sailing is a huge part of Windermere School, every child from Year 3 onwards can sail and many have gone on to develop their skills to a very high standard.
In addition to Outdoor Education Windermere School is a strong advocate of Outdoor Learning. This will be explained in a future article.
With lessons online at present, we are very much looking forward to getting back out there and seeing everyone. However, in the meantime, the online lessons are looking at all the skills we have mentioned above, and we have seen students having some fantastic local experiences.
– Mr Platt and the Outdoor Team