We live in a technologically-driven world of constant change. To put this rapid pace of change into perspective, it is estimated that 65 per cent of children today will end up in jobs yet to be invented (1). Although the specific trades, industries or tools needed to complete these jobs are unknown, we already recognise that a range twenty-first century skills or QI skills which underpin our resilience, are required for us to adapt to such change. These skills include our ability to be self-aware, empathise with others, question how the world works and how it could be, become strong willed and overcome, and learn from failure. Research tells us that these skills can be fostered early in childhood and are predictive of success in later life such as employment, education and mental health (2).
The unpredictable and dynamic nature of outdoor adventure reflects our world of constant change. This makes it an ideal learning environment for the development and cultivation of skills needed to adapt. In essence, adventure represents our willingness to take risks and learn through uncertainty. Adventure education is about placing healthy demands on children to ignite their sense of passion and purpose in life. This involves educators and parents being responsible without being over-protective so that youngsters are never allowed to wobble, trip, stumble or fall, and as a result, miss out on the experience to know what it like to get back up again.
Here are some tips to enable your child to wobble through adventurous experiences, thereby becoming adaptable to the inevitable changes they will face in their lives.
Frame a child’s setback as a lesson to learn and not a failure to endure. This shows that achievement comes from stretching oneself by applying continued effort. This allows young people to self-correct and adjust their responses to produce gains from losses. It is important that children are not immediately given the answers to problems, but rather empowered to review naturally emerging experiences or consequences for their actions, even when things do not go to plan. As a result, learners will attribute their learning to themselves, and take pride in their achievements.
Adventure is created by combining unfamiliar environments with unknown outcomes. This provides an ideal breeding ground for children to develop the fundamental skills of questioning how, what, who, when and why. These questions are a demonstration of curiosity and inquisitiveness that enables children to become creative, come up with effective solutions and adapt to the world around them.
When children realise that they have control over their decisions and actions, they are more likely to know how to make choices and respond positively to challenges. Giving children choices and the autonomy to play and explore in a natural space is a primary mechanism through which they become freely acquainted with their environment, develop natural mapping skills and learn how to distinguish between themselves and others.
Children like to model people especially if they are meaningful to them. They will learn to focus, gain self-belief and drive from their observations of others and from feedback on their efforts. It is important not to wait to the end of an activity to provide feedback if children require the momentum to feed-forward to their next challenge.
At a point in time where children have faced unprecedented upheaval and threats to their well-being it has never been more important to create daily opportunities for them to build their adaptive capacity to deal with uncertainties. Learning by wobbling their way through adventure offers this solution.
1. L. Jana, M.D. The Toddler Brain, Da Cappo Press, 2017
2. D.E. Jones, M. Greenberg, and M. Crowley, Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness, American Journal of Public Health, 105, No 11, 2283-2290, 2015
Nurturing an optimum blend of physical, social, cognitive and emotional literacy is most important in childhood. This is where brain growth is most prolific and a toolkit of skill sets can be fostered to help children adapt to the challenges of today.
Thank you so much for having our daughter at your summer camp. She was very excited when she returned and enthusiastically showed and told us everything she did at camp. Many thanks to the whole team for looking after her, the varied and lovely programme and the nice and warm atmosphere at camp.