What are your foundational principles of practice (POP)? In other words, what do you believe to be true when it comes to developing and leading/facilitating adventure-based programs? And, the other question worth exploring (at another time perhaps) is where these beliefs come from? For me, my POPs seem to be revealed, more often than not, when they meet up with other's POPs (I like to call these interactions, POP Parties!!). Where there is diversity there is the opportunity for wonderful dialogue as we know to be true in this field of Adventure Education (and we know, unfortunately, the opposite is also true).
Here's an example of a one of the good POP partys from my past. Organizing my vault of hard-copy treasures from workshops past, I found a handout from a Ph.D. (higher ed faculty member) in the field of recreation who lead a workshop at a state-level Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance conference i while back. The Ph.D. provided a handout of thoughts for us to remember and reflect upon from the presentation - I would say, this person's POPs. (I remember the workshop to be full of passionate dialogue - good stuff.)
For this first Agree or Disagree post I would like to present some of the information provided in the handout and whether I (or my POP) agree with the Ph.D. or if I disagree and my POP in juxtaposition.
Handout: Initiative exercises and activities offer a series of clearly defined problems or tasks to a group that must be solved before an acceptable solution to the challenge may be reached. [Note: This is the first line on the handout.]
I Disagree: For me this statement is too limiting - using words like, "clearly defined problems," "must be solved," and "acceptable solution" limit my programming opportunities for the opposite.
Handout: The problem-oriented approach to learning can be useful in developing each individual's awareness of decision-making, leadership, and obligations and strengths of each member within the group.
I Agree: And, useful for developing a lot more pro-social behaviors. I especially like the use of the phrase, "obligation and strengths of each member within the group." I believe, through practice and theory, that the use of adventure education is for social development - I teach my student that we work within the "social curriculum" realm of education.
Handout: [When programing and facilitating initiatives] select a problem that is suited to the age and physical ability of the group. An older group is easily stunned off by a childish situation, and [an]other group may be quickly frustrated by problems that require physical or mental development beyond their capacities.
I Agree: In educational terms this is considered proper scaffolding. We work up from where the students are, adding new knowledge and experiences to what they already understand and have done in the past. I like the point included about "physical ability of the group." I've noticed over time (I include myself in this observation) that programming for age is easier to do up front based on our experiences, but there is little consideration of the physical abilities of the participants - often because we do not have (i.e., did not collect) information about this area until we start working with a group.
Handout: Situations may arise when a participant will break a ground rule of the challenge. The penalty for such an infraction can be either a time penalty or starting over. Be strict in administering the rules of the problem. If the group suspects that you don't care about following the rules, the problem will resolve into horseplay and become functionally meaningless.
I Disagree: If I stick to this practice (safety concerns withstanding) as a hard-and-fast rule in my programming I eliminate the opportunity to learn from "functional meaninglessness." When an outside force is constantly holding a group accountable for their actions, how does the group learn about taking responsibility for themselves - we miss the opportunity to talk about such things.
Handout: As an instructor [facilitator], you [are] obligated, during the problem-solving process, to be silent.
I Disagree: [I get the most pushback on this part of my POP.] I believe that there are important learnings to recognize "during" a group process that might be better reflected upon in the moment than after the moment has past. Of course, overdoing this (stepping in) can be counter-productive, so we choose these moments carefully. On a related note, after reading more into John Dewey's work with experiential education, I have come to agree that the facilitator is part of the group (arguably a small part) with experiences that can help the group at points (again, not overdoing this) during their experiences. My reasoning for this part of my POP is about the doors/tools of opportunity. Pointing out that there are, or giving permission to explore, other doors/tools of possibly will help a group to learn about choices when they are "stuck" believing there are none, or very few. In time we hope the group understands they might not be limited to the doors/tools that they have and feel free to explore (look for) more options.
How about you? Are you agreeing or disagreeing here? What is your POP? I hope my point is evident. (But just in case.) It can be good to explore, from time-to-time, your principles and practices. This makes us reflective practitioners - important to good education. Attend or start a POP party. Share your thoughts (you can do it here in the comments area below). Agree, disagree, share your thoughts. This dialogue helps us all focus in on what's important to us as educators and how we approach our programming and our groups. And, spend a little time considering where your beliefs come from - like our groups, are we stuck using a tool that might not be the best for the job? Or, are tools other people are using better suited?
All the best,
I ran across a recent Edutopia sponsored Social and Emotional Learning blog post from Maurice Elias (a Psychology Professor at Rutgers) entitled “How Are Social-Emotional Learning and the Common Core Connected?” The post is essentially laid out in an interview format – Dr. Elias interviewing Kristin Fink and Karen Geller co-chairs of a group of educators representing the Education Advisory Council of the Character Education Partnership. This esteemed group of people developed and authored a white paper entitled, “Integrating Common Core and Character Education: Why It Is Essential and How It Can Be Done.”
In the blog interview (referring to the White Paper), Miss Fink & Miss Geller make the effort to highlight the vital need to, “explicitly address the quality of the learning environment or the culture of respect, responsibility, and excellence that must be in place for optimal student learning.” If the demands of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are to be successful in schools they believe that “conversations [about Common Core] must include a sustained focus on character education, social-emotional learning, and positive school climate.”
What does this have to do with adventure education? Essentially what I’m suggesting here is that, if you are working at, or with, a school aiming towards CCSS, dive into this White Paper to find supportive connects between your adventure education program and the suggested recommendations.
Here are just a few connections I found – things we tend to focus on in our adventure education programs (there are lots more!!):
We [i.e., teachers, administrators, parents] “want every child’s school to be a place where students and adults are caring and responsible, and committed to a learning community which values and supports everyone.” (p. 1)
“The Common Core…requires young people to develop the stamina to dig into challenging work.”
Three Ways to Strengthen Common Core (pp. 3-4)
Connections to a few of the Common Core Toolkit prosocial interdisciplinary themes (p. 8). The Toolkit is a Guide to Aligning the Common Core Standards with the Framework for 21st Century Skills:
Let me know how this White Paper supports/helps your adventure education efforts!!
All the best,
I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one who has use playground equipment for team building activities. Recently I helped a friend come up with over a dozen activities utilizing the public playground structure near his inner-city school. Teaching in a big city often comes with limited outdoor space, but local parks can serve as a useful alternative to staying inside on those beautiful days. Here's a brief summary of some of the ideas we put together. (All these ideas come with the blanket understanding that proper safety precautions will always be covered and followed - be super sure that structures are safe before you use them. If in doubt, don't do it!!):
Sherpa (Trust) Walk: Two group members lead a small group of un-sighted players safely around/up/over different areas of the equipment. (The sherpas, in Rohnke-esk fashion, do not speak a known language. They communicate in sounds that the group must eventually figure out. The safe easy Walk is to use a language that works for everyone - or mostly everyone.)
All Aboard: There are always a wide variety of platform spaces for the group to occupy. Start out with a large platform area and ask everyone to stand on it together (be sure the structure you are using is strong enough for the entire group). The idea is to eventually find the smallest (safe) platform area that everyone in the group can stand/balance upon from at least three full seconds.
Stepping Stones: One of my favorites for the playground. I bring along my 1-foot round spot markers, each player gets a spot, and the group has to use them to step on in order to get from one side of the playground structure to the other. So, if a player is stepping down a spot must be under his or her foot. I love the three-dimensional aspect of the trip. (And, going through a tube is really interesting! Or up a slide??!!)
TP Shuffle: Using an elevated curb, beam, or even some chalk on the side walk for the path, two small groups facing each other (each group in a line) have to switch places without stepping off the curb, beam, or chalked path. (I always like to start with a sidewalk version and then progress to a more elevated challenge.)
Tunnel Pass: Divide a group in half - one half at each entrance to the playground tunnel. Players can only go through and exit the tunnel if they have passed someone inside of it. Get everyone from both sides through the tube. (Careful with this one - there are some space body contact issues in there. The right group at the right time.)
Spider Web: There are lots of openings on playground equipment. After going through a progression of spotting and lifting activities set up a plan for everyone to go through some sort of opening in the equipment. Lots of room for planning and discussion. You could also assign points for the different openings and the group does it's best to get the most points possible.
Up and Over: Like a team wall, groups can also work together to get everyone up-and-over a stable bar located on the playground. The bar should be at a height where everyone will be able to spot others safely while maneuvering over the top. Spotting! Spotting! Spotting!
Other Playground Team Building ideas out there. Share in the comments below!
All the best,
The folks from Digital Media and Learning Research Hub (DLM) commissioned a series of short films that explore the underlying thinking of their six principles of connected learning - interests, peers, youth as producers, networks, shared purpose, and academics. I learned about the films through a DLM blog post Making + Playing + Understanding = Learning (A nice little formula for adventure programming I think...). The post included one of the films, Connected Learning: Play (and links to the other five films). The film "Play" did of course catch my eye. It is essentially an interview with Katie Salen, a game designer and executive director of a non-profit called Institute of Play. After watching the 7-minute film, a number of questions came to mind that I thought would be worth sharing and reflecting upon as an adventure educator. Give this film a look (click on the image or click the word "Play" above) and let me know what you think.
Reflective Questions for the film, Connected Learning: Play
Adventure Education Level:
What are some of your answers? What are some of your questions about the film? Share in the comments.
All the best,
Those of you familiar with the original Bloom's Taxonomy know that it is a "classification of learning objectives" divided between the Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor learning domains. (Have you heard about the proposed fourth domain? Health-Related Fitness.) The intended goal of the Taxonomy, "is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains [and the different "levels" or "ways" of thinking], creating a more holistic form of education" (see the Wikipedia article linked above for more).
Lately I've had the time to explore the use of Bloom's Taxonomy. In doing so I learned about a revision of the Taxonomy that was presented in 2001. What caught my eye about this revision was the inclusion of the "creating" process - something we like to do in adventure education. Creating is placed at the "higher order thinking skill" level in this new model (more here - a really nice interactive page from Iowa State's Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. NOTE: The interactive model needs Flash Player to work - I didn't see it on my iPad, but did with my computer).
What inspired the Channels Project was a May 2012 blog post by Shelley Wright. "Flip This: Bloom's Taxonomy Should Start with Creating." Shortly after this read I set out to create an activity that could move a group through the ways of thinking (and, working with teachers and future teachers, help them understand and remember the areas of the revised Bloom's - flipped or not). The interesting discovery was that the ways of thinking are also obvious question prompts for the reflective process throughout the activity and during the processing session after the activity.
(Thanks to Chris Davis for the graphic.)
The Channels Project
Needs & Numbers (original set-up): One channel for each participant in the group (see Pipeline post for equipment options and ideas), 4 small rollable objects (e.g., marbles), 4 small cups or bowls, 4 cones, 4 chairs - the four-legged kind, one wide-mouthed container, 1 timing device, 1 diagram/list of the Flipped Ways of Thinking, 1 list of required actions for reference (e.g., provide information on flip chart paper or a white board), and a few blank sheets of paper and a writing tool. Works well with 10 to 12 in a group.
Time: This one could go from 30 to 90 minutes depending on the group(s) and how deliberate you are with the rules and objectives. (For example, I'm thinking of using this as an "extended initiative" - an activity that lasts more than one group meeting (more about EI's in an upcoming post).
Set-Up: (For each group of 10 to 12 participants.) Mark the corners of a 25-foot square boundary area (can be indoors or outdoors) with the four cones. Place one chair inside the boundary area about 5 feet from each corner and an equal distance from each side. Place the wide-mouthed container directly in the center of the boundary area (wide-mouth up). Place one rollable object, that has been placed in a small cup, at each of the corners of the boundary area - just outside the boundary area. Set down all the other supplies somewhere near the outside of the boundary area.
Procedure: Here is what I've said so far (or very close to it), to introduce the activity:
"The objective of this activity is to create a transportation system of channels inside the boundary area that will move a small rollable object - found at each corner of the boundary area - over and into the container located at the center of the boundary area as quickly as possible. All boundary-area equipment must stay in its current location.
At some point during the movement of the small rollable object it must include the following action steps while inside the boundary area [reading from the list I will give to the group] - The rollable object must go: OVER something, UNDER something, AROUND something, THROUGH something, BETWEEN two things, DROP through the air, travel HORIZONTALLY (or close to it) through the air, move DOWN, and move UP. These actions do not need to go in the order listed on this paper I have for you, they simply need to be included in the system." (Even though my groups have asked me to clarify some of these requirements, I have simply said, "I will leave that up to you, as a group, to decide on how you integrate these actions.")
"During the activity I will also ask you to adhere to the following Rules of Play:" [I share these Rules of Play before letting the group(s) start their work.]
[I continue with the following information before the group is allowed to begin...]
"During the activity, as noted, you will have up to four attempts (since there are four rollable objects to move) to achieve the objective. Please use the blank paper, found in your supplies, to diagram - including "action step" areas - your transportation system for the rollable object. Also included in your supplies is a list (or diagram) called, Ways of Thinking. Consider using this list as you work through the challenges of this activity. After creating a system to move the object evaluate and analyze how it works for you. Think about ways to improve your system and apply the changes. After you reach your objective (or not, due to time limitations or loss of supplies), we'll take some time to talk about what you've come to understand and want to remember about your experience with the Channels Project.
I'm now ready to answer any questions you have before starting the activity."
Facilitation Notes: If a group does manage to move the rollable object before four attempts have been made, encourage them to continue, trying to decrease the overall time it takes to move the object. Asking: How can your system be improved? If a group does not complete the objective, dig into the process with a focused processing session. Use the Ways of Thinking, starting with Evaluating their work. Then Analyze the parts of the process that were evaluated poorly. Move into possible Applications of changes to the process - assume what might happen if changes would be made. Wrap up with what the group Knows about each other and how they work together, and what they want to Remember about their experience - what do they want to transfer into the future. Then, move on to the future - another activity. See what they learned.
As I'm sure you can tell, there will be/is a great deal to discuss during and after this activity. Each time I've lead this one I've used the Ways of Thinking terms within my questions to the groups. I've also found that flipping the revised Bloom's taxonomy and using it within an activity lends itself to using the different Ways of Thinking when needed. It's not about a rigid linear step-by-step process. (NOTE: In the original Taxonomy, Bloom et al., did promote a scaffolded way of moving through the levels - one first needed basic Knowledge before one could Comprehend something. After comprehending, one could then learn to Apply the information and so on through the model. More recent, pedagogy is moving away from the linear model of Bloom's and exploring how analyzing, for example, can be an initial step to learning - informing comprehension and knowledge (e.g., Problem-Based Learning or Inquiry-Based Learning).
Let me know how this one works out for you! Comment below.
All the best,
I'm not completely sure why, but I connect well with and remember things better in threes. I think it started with collecting objects/props in threes - as activity equipment and juggling tools.
At the moment I'm working through the book, Teaching Online: A Practical Guide (3rd ed.) by Susan Ko and Steve Rossen (I'm interested in teaching online - especially, learning how to create continuing education online courses for adventure educators). In one of the initial chapters the authors tell us that when teaching online you must continuously review your course design and content, reflect on the effectiveness of the design and content (Is it doing what you want it to do?), and revise the design and content if it's not working for you or your students.
I realized right away that this is a nice processing model as well. In my simple world I see processing as a noun - it is a time when the facilitator and participants get together to create a space for talking about recent events. The verbs include:
Review - participants simply state what they remember about the current event. I like to ask, "If we were watching a video of the last activity tell me what you would see and hear." Or, "What do you remember seeing and hearing during the last activity?" (Trying to leave out opinion at this stage.) (Note: Roger Greenaway uses the term "reviewing" as the noun for bring participants together to talk. Check out his comprehensive Reviewing Website in the topic.)
Reflect - Here we think and talk about the meaning of what was seen or heard. Topics can be participant generated or facilitator generated. Why was there a lot of laughing? What were some of the reasons for talking loudly? Or, talking at the same time? Why do you think you divided yourselves into two groups? What grade would you give your overall teamwork? What behaviors lead to the grade? Here is the place for opinions, assumptions, and feelings. All good things to talk about.
Revise - After reflecting we can think and talk about how we might want to change - add behaviors that are missing and try to reduce/eliminate behaviors that are not useful. What can we do to get a better grade on our teamwork? What can help us get along better during the next activity? How would taking turns to speak help us out? What do we need to be the best we can be at this time?
This basic approach is not completely novel - it's a simplified version of a large body of work on processing. It's fairly synonymous with the, What? So What? Now What? approach from Outward Bound. The 3-Rs really give me a clearer picture of the steps I like to take during a processing session.
What other "simple" models are out there for processing? Please comment below.
All the best,
Currently I have the opportunity to teach at the college level - pre-service physical education teachers learning about adventure education. It took me a couple semesters to hone in on a good way to present adventure-based programming to my students for the first time - I call it F.U.N. planning.
F is for "fit." Once we know the objectives of our incoming group what activities can I use to fit into these objectives - what activities will bring out the learnings related to the objectives?
U is for "understand." In what way do I plan to help my participants understand the tasks I'm asking them to do. Most of my students are still learning about different ways to present information to others. Here is an overview of learning styles that will provide some ideas about presenting information. The more ways we can present information the more we can connect with our participants. We also might even what to frontload an activity in order to open the door to the possible learning that might occur. (Here is the idea of front loading from The Institute for Experiential Education - the group that brought us the Chiji Cards.)
I tell my students, and I believe this, that creative planning for understanding is the most important part of programming and lesson development. Without good planning at this stage you leave the door open for misinterpretation and off task behaviors.
N is for "notice." During the process of the activity or after the activity how do you plan to get your participants to notice the learnings you were aiming for with the activities you programmed? In adventure-baed education practices this is typically know as processing, reflection, debriefing, or reviewing (for tons of great ideas see the Active Reviewing site from Roger Greenaway). In short, how much time will you spend and what will you do to get your participants to notice what just happened to them during an activity. Some facilitators ask directed questions, others provide prop-based reflection (e.g., using Chiji Cards), others use journaling prompts or simply let the "mountain speak for itself" - allowing the participants to reflect internally about the meaning of current event. However you do it, be sure to do it!!
What programming tips can you pass along? Leave a comment for us.
All the best,
On Sale Now!
This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.
Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.