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What It Means To Be An Outdoor Educator

By Paul Ronan

What does it mean to be an outdoor educator? For me, it’s easily defined by getting people outside of their comfort zones and showing them what it means to face a challenge. When offering people these challenges it is not only them who grow, but me as well. My name is Paul Ronan and I am one of the lucky few who get to work for Insight Adventures.
Why are Insight Adventure programmes so important? Students come to Insight and learn in a very informal setting with hands-on activities, enhancing their skills for critical thinking, problem solving and environmentally-sound decision making. The social and personal growth that students gain about their classmates, their instructor and themselves in an overnight situation is what really makes the experiences so unique. It can sometimes be the highlight of a child's education.
Many of the children who participate in Insight programmes have never been out of their city's limits. We offer these urban students an opportunity to escape and learn in a new way, giving them a glimpse of the sky they may never have noticed in the city
I’ve seen this fact first-hand. Clare, who came to one of our programmes in Yangshuo from the inner-city, was kayaking and I asked if she was having fun. I meant paddling on the river, but she replied, "Before this trip, I'd never been kayaking before, never hiked, been climbing, nor slept outside. I’d never eaten smores. I’d never even had the experience of sitting around a campfire looking up at the stars.” 
I believe that there is a need in this fast-paced life for people to slow down and re-connect. One thing I love about Insight programmes is how they remind people of their connection to the Earth, the natural community, where they come from, and even to the stars above them. Our hands-on activities can take some students much farther in their understanding than reading a book. 
We all learn in different ways, and, at times, a formal classroom can completely alienate a student. That is where outdoor education can play a huge part of a child’s education. Several studies have shown that hands-on learning is the only way some student can learn effectively, and more importantly retain what he/she has just learned.
I am an Outdoor Educator and am so passionate about it because this is how I learned when I was growing up. I was lucky enough to go to a summer camp ever year where I learned how to interact with people and the environment. Each summer I would come back a wiser, more mature and more confident person. Not only did I have a great time, but I found that when I got back, I understood more about myself than ever before. 
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