Introduction to Adventure Learning
Guest post written by Larry Childs, First Literacy Workshop Presenter and Senior Trainer and Consultant at Larry Childs Consulting
Adventure is a way of doing; it is not just an activity in and of itself. If the word adventure conjures up images of activities like rock climbing, rafting and parachuting, pause for a moment and imagine instead the way in which an activity is performed. A lesson/activity becomes an adventure if an element of surprise exists, if activities compel one to do things they have never imagined possible. Adventure exists when there is engagement, and engagement comes from providing experiences that are unique and relevant and, hence, educational.
Adventure includes challenge—moments when one can stretch and grow and achieve both success and failure, and through that become comfortable with others. Adventure is about taking risks—not necessarily physical risks, but emotional and apparent physical risks, where one sees the natural consequences before them. Perhaps just connecting action to consequence is vital, knowing it is one thing, being able to experience it is another.
Why Use Adventure In The Classroom?
When introducing adventure in a classroom setting an atmosphere of safety needs to exist—a space where one can speak their minds and push themselves to new limits. While all of this is hard, it should also have a purposeful element of fun and play—through which individuals become willingly engaged and increasingly known. Once the stage is set there are many reasons why adventure is great for the classroom.
- Stimulating – Adventure is a holistic approach to learning which deeply engages participants physically, cognitively and emotionally. The approach is highly inclusive integrating multiple learning and behavioral styles.
- Satisfying – Adventure is full of surprise—it is fun so students want to take part. It invokes the universal language of play and laughter which powerfully motivate engagement, cut across differences, and enhance interpersonal relationships.
- Supporting – Adventure inspires, informs and creates a safe environment in which students become responsible to self, community and others. This includes many opportunities for effective communication, collaboration and sharing of ideas and feelings. It can look and sound like asking for help, giving help and being vulnerable.
- Stretching – Adventure promotes and accelerates student development. Students are not left to “sit” in their comfort zones, but rather encouraged and inspired to operate in their stretch zone where learning best occurs.
- Strength-based – Adventure focuses on cultivating and developing strengths, while still recognizing those areas where students may need to grow.
- Significant – Adventure learning allows students to experience a behavior (positive or not), reflect on that behavior, learn to replicate or diminish that behavior and then explore how to transfer insight and action to other settings.
Facilitation Tips for Teachers
Integrating adventure into the classroom is a new experience for many. Here are some basic tips that will go a long way to ensuring success. In reviewing these points, consider how some suggestions can also enhance your existing leadership and instructional practices. Remember, adventure is not so much about what you do, rather how you do it.
- Integrate social and emotional learning and adventure into your daily routines. Although there may be specific lessons that are part of teaching character education, it is more about how you weave the language and philosophy into your routine that makes the methodology effective. The more you perceive it as an “add on” the more students see character education as something you and they engage in occasionally instead of a way of being that exists all the time.
- Appear spontaneous. Sometimes you also need to be spontaneous, but at a minimum, appear as casual as possible as you do the lessons and activities. This will keep students wondering, “What will he or she ask us to do next?” They like the surprise element.
- Be playful. How you brief (prepare students for) an activity or lesson often sets that activity up for success or failure. If you are asking students to do something playful, join in and be playful, too.
- Have more prepared than you think you need. Adventure activities can be unpredictable. You never know when an activity you thought would take 30 minutes takes only 10. Have a good bag of tricks available so that when you have extra time, you have plenty to fill it with.
- Be flexible. We can’t say this enough … sometimes the right activity for the moment becomes apparent only at the last minute. Go with your gut.
- Don’t be afraid of the discussions. Students often like to talk about feelings and process. Yet, they are rarely given chances or the safe environment for real reflection. Relax and go with the tenor of the conversation. If students are silent, ask better questions, or move to small-group discussions.
- Be communicative. For a whole-school initiative to work, educators must keep the lines of communication open with their colleagues. Share what you are learning about what works and what doesn’t so that the entire team can benefit. Modeling active collegial sharing and support is as influential on student behavior as classroom practices.
- Keep safety in mind. Adventure activities can go in many directions. It continues to be the teacher’s responsibility to manage the physical and emotional safety of the class. Help students learn to assume an active role in managing their own safety as well.
- Keep the Full Value Contract (Core Values), the Experiential Learning Cycle and Challenge by Choice present. These are cornerstone principles of adventure that will help you make good decisions.
- Have fun!
Adventure in the classroom can be a great way to create a fun learning environment. For a deeper dive into activities and techniques that facilitate fun and support language acquisition, join us on Friday, October 14 for a workshop on Community Building Activities and Methods for Your ESOL Classroom. Learn strategies for fostering movement and fun in the classroom and participate in activities that engage adult learners while addressing content.