Inside out teaching
Working in the outdoors is challenging during COVID-19. It requires innovation and creativity beyond the realms of a single person with experience of outdoor delivery.
Working collaboratively, sharing ideas, and thinking ‘outside the box’ with my Principle Outdoor Learning Support Officer Dave Hunt has been inspirational. Following Alastair Humphrey’s concept of ‘microadventures’ and inspired by Dr John Connell’s ‘Dancing on Your Doorstep’ programme, we began considering how well students know their immediate surroundings. “A microadventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding” (Humphreys 2019: 1).
This distilled adventure essence is reflected in the first assessment through the 20x20 PechaKucha presentation through which students propose their misadventure. This completely different assessment format is in itself a microadventure.
Innovative ideas of how the outdoors could be brought into seminars as a teaching resource during COVID-19 lockdown came to fruition in a seminar series Dave developed. In real seminar time connected via Microsoft Teams by mobile phone, Dave packed a rucksack and walked out to a local wooded area setting up a bivouac for the night. Back at our Headingley ‘basecamp’ in a consulting room in the new CSS building, with tents erected and outdoor equipment to hand, I delivered a groupwork survival scenario exercise online which acted as a feed into essential equipment requirements.
While we captured and discussed thriving rather than surviving in our theoretical outdoor situation, Dave showed students how to do it all for real, including lighting a fire with no matches, cooking popcorn, with an accompanying steaming hot brew, all in full view of the group. With experienced outdoor students on the programme sharing equipment, survival techniques and personal knowledge with less experienced members through short vignettes, videos and PowerPoint using Microsoft Teams sharing options, this was a rewarding experience for everyone involved including staff.
Once students had experienced this back to basics session, subsequent outdoor seminars collaboratively designed with Dave, built on practical skills of navigation while ensuring adherence to COVID-19 regulations. Students Geochached locally providing an “adventure in their backyard” (Humpreys 2019) and completed the Headingley Street Run orienteering competition. Many students were astonished at what their backyard revealed and how much more attentive they were to places they thought they already knew. Proust reminds us that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”, an important consideration in these difficult times.
Humphreys, A. (2019) Living Adventurously, available [online] at URL: https://alastairhumphreys.com/microadventures-3/, accessed 7th January 2021.