The Academics of Adventure: Chapter – Keep Climbing

A learner at the top.

The Way of Learning

‘I’m feeling really crappy right now, but my whole group is too, and we’re all going through the same experience together . . . The only way we’re going to get through this or enjoy it at all is if we do it together as a group.” — A student attending an adventure camp. 

Learning is tough. It takes determination and resolve to attempt the same problem again after failing. If a math problem cannot be solved all at once, the learner must have the grit to return to it later. New research concludes that grit rather than IQ plays a larger role in a student’s future achievement. It implies that the ability to hold onto long-term goals and consistently work towards them is likely to bring success. What is an expedition into the Great Outdoors if not a test of one’s determination?

The Way of Adventure

Natural and adventurous learning is founded on the principle of tough situations that build better human beings. They are designed to look and feel more challenging than they are. So when students say they cannot climb any higher because every step is a challenge and the narrow hiking path jutting out of the mountain seems fearsome at its height, they find themselves climbing up still. With support and difficulty, they slowly take that next step and keep climbing. 

The view at the top is only the most life-changing cherry on the cake. Not only do the students pick up resilience and self-awareness during an adventure activity, but they also get the reward of success. The same principle applies to a difficult math problem. If one cannot solve an equation, they fail. The next time they do it partially right, and so on. Only, they keep at it. Once they get it right, they understand they are capable of more than they thought possible.

So what else could be more important to learning than grit? 

The Way of Teaching

With the help of tools in the hands of experienced educational institutions, natural classrooms and school classrooms can exchange notes on their students. The math problems from the classrooms can be taken outside and applied, just as nature can enhance indoor learning experiences by helping students’ attention capacity and brain activity. Together, nature and classrooms are interlocking teaching mechanisms that can help students become true learners — the mission of all educational institutions.