ALIVE Outdoors Inc.
Adventure. Leadership. Individuality. Values. Empowerment. These characteristics are the defining backbone and essence of experiential learning for ALIVE Outdoors Incorporated. “Outdoor education” and “sustainable education” have become increasingly popular terms in mainstream schooling. This method of learning capitalizes on the power of outdoor experiential education to enhance education programs.
As a former physical-education teacher, Jalynn Bosley knew that learning in the outdoor classroom created long lasting lessons. With this in mind, she left her teaching job in search of finding an environment where she could help students connect on a level that was not possible in the classroom. Jalynn went back to her roots remembering the impact camping and canoe trips had on her life. “It’s the simplicity of connecting with nature and yourself. I knew I wanted to pass on these experiences to help youth experience what it feels like to be “alive,” says Bosley. She went on to create Personal Leadership programs with specific goals that allow each participant to flourish and to recognize their inner strengths and potential.
Studies have found that contact with the environment produces more eco-friendly behaviour and people must be exposed to nature as children if they are to care about it as adults. With fewer adults spending time in the great outdoors, children are less likely to experience it. “We’re shifting away from natural environments” says Bosley.
Students spend the majority of a six-hour day, five days per week sitting in classes. Outdoor Education strives to provide students the opportunity to learn by doing, creating not only an environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle, but also conducive to all learning styles. “Our programs get kids away from the city and away from technology giving them the opportunity to truly connect with people.” The incorporation of experiential learning, particularly in the outdoors, could vastly reduce the amount of time students spend deskbound as well as encourage them to develop a deeper understanding of their potential by feeling more secure in their uniqueness and personal strengths.
The majority of their programs have a specific purpose that the school or organization wants to achieve. “Originally, trips were organized separately. Then, the idea came to partner with schools as the clients to deliver the outdoor experiential programs,” says Bosley. “It was a slow start but in the last six to seven years, the emphasis for leadership programs was prevalent.”
Many groups, regardless of the age of the participants, want to enhance the sense of community acceptance and involvement of their people, while some groups simply want their participants to bond and be together in a natural setting. There are programs that are focused on leadership; as well as supporting students or employees to become better team-players by enriching their problem solving skills and learning to set goals in-sync with their values.
The ALIVE Outdoors instructors are comprised of highly qualified experiential educators. They have been contracted for: their expertise, their leadership qualities, their qualifications, their pedagogical approach and their enthusiasm for working with young people in the outdoors. They are all trained in first aid, CPR and instructors on the water are certified lifeguards. Many of instructors have their Wilderness First Responder certification. Their collective goal is to help the students they work with become richer individuals through helping them to recognize their inner potential.
Research findings have steadily accumulated showing that physical activity promotes learning. Exposure to nature is restorative to mental health and that play and novel challenge accelerates brain development. Both the immediate and long-term educational rewards garnered from experiential, or “hands-on,” learning frequently outweigh those of more traditional lecture-style lessons. “We offer more unique programs that cater to the needs of the schools. We partner with camps and lease their sites to deliver these programs. We actually work with the competition. It’s a great business model that’s working,” says Bosley.
ALIVE Outdoors exists in large measure to help alleviate the burden teachers can have in planning purposeful and transformative trips for their students. They work with the schools to organize and facilitate trips that are based on curriculum in conjunction with challenging students differently beyond the classroom. Instructors often find that the students who do not necessarily excel in the classroom are often the ones who shine on outdoor trips.
The programs do not force specific lesson outcomes but rather allow students to immerse themselves in their learning and lead themselves. “We’re evolving all the time,” says Bosley. “We’re really focused on being the best in the field and in our risk management practices by meeting the needs of our changing world.” Bosley is planning to branch into consulting work on leadership with schools. She is also doing work on service learning.
Outdoor experiences create life lessons that stay with students long after graduation. These lessons are also the memories that students speak of most fondly after their experience. “At the end of the day, it’s the simple moments that bring me the most sense of accomplishment; hearing the response from young people and making an impact in their everyday life, “says Bosley.
Such are the enjoyable educational experiences in the outdoors that promote connections with the environment – connections that encourage future generations to build more mutually beneficial relationships with nature. “The real you is who you are when no one is watching,” says Bosley. “Nature is the perfect classroom that provides students with the ideal tools, means, and context with which to thrive.” Experiential learning is fun. Students that are enjoying themselves are more likely to pay attention, care about, and retain what they are learning.