After an outdoor education trip to the coast of Georgia last week, I was thinking about why these trips are so important. The answers can be simple: a change of pace, time unplugged, bonding for a class, and learning about the natural world. These certainly are true – for students and for the adults that accompany them. But I think it is learning about each student that tops the list.
I encounter students who are confident in the classroom, but away from home need support and encouragement. I learn who these children are and have the opportunity to help them. I learn which students know every last detail about fiddler crabs and those that have a keen eye on the beach for unseen treasures. I gain knowledge about those with fantastic leadership skills and can cause an entire bus to break out in song because of a magnetic personality. I have the privilege of seeing students take physical risks, like swimming deeper in the ocean than they want to swim. I see students taking emotional risks, like touching a snake or a crab. I see students taking social risks, like developing a friendship that was only an acquaintance a few days before.
Traveling away from the comfortable and the known creates opportunities for growth and learning for adults and students alike. The change of pace is great. The sunshine on my face is fantastic. The exercise without planning is refreshing. But the chance to learn more about our students is a gift.