Impact of Outdoor Learning
Louise Edwards, Manager at Surrey Outdoor Learning & Development, AHOEC Chair
I struggled to fit in at secondary school. I was weird, loud, unconventional and didn't really have 'a place' in terms friendship groups and the social scene. What I now know is that I had very poor self-esteem and a lack of confidence in social scenarios. When I was 14, Mr. Cook (our geography teacher) organised a week long outdoor adventure residential to the River Dart Country Park, an outdoor education centre on Dartmoor. I spent the week with a team of 8 other peers who I didn't know that well and one amazing instructor who worked with us consistently all week. The programme was challenging and adventurous and was adapted to the high ability of our team. During that week, I had never felt such a sense of trust, support, mutual respect and belonging as I experienced then. Our team looked after each other, laughed with each other, and probably cried with each other, but it was extremely powerful, emotional and truly life changing. Even when I think of it now, I can feel the sense of emotional safety and security that team gave me. I didn't fully understand why at the time, but I felt a sense of mourning after the trip and then worked out that this is wanted I wanted and needed to do with my life. As a direct result of this experience, I started getting involved with every outdoor learning opportunity I could. I went straight to University and completed an Outdoor Education degree and have spent my entire professional career since then in outdoor learning. The core values underpinning my work and the motivation for my career, always comes back to my week in Dartmoor when I was 14.