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Adventure is Calling, and Kids Are Listening

Reid Cross, Phillip Sanchez and Bridgette Kennedy

joperd cover august 2019

Long before words appeared on the first clay tablet, young children grew up learning to read animal tracks in the mud, clouds in the sky, the grain of wood and the cleavage of stone, the furrows on the faces of their elders. Through these fundamental, natural tools they developed the confidence to survive in a harsh world, the wisdom to manage resources, and the skill to navigate human society. Even as modern civilization began to take shape, the ancient Greek philosophers recognized the power of nature to teach important lessons (Hunt, 1999). In his Republic, Plato proposed sending young people to participate in the adventure and risk of war so that they would learn the character development associated with facing risk. However, even though Plato argued for the exposure to danger, he also argued that if the threat to life became too great, then there should be a secured means of escape (Hamilton & Cairns, 1961/2015). Plato was probably the first recorded person to use the perceived risk philosophy in education common in today’s adventure education programs.

Today, as our technological society drifts ever farther from its roots, nature calls to us still. Though we no longer need to hunt and gather our own food, our children still need to learn to build healthy bodies and healthy minds, reconnect with the natural world, and learn to be good stewards of the planet they will inherit (Shultis, 2012).

The way we educate children has a strong eff ect on their quality of life, in both the short term and the long. Outdoor education is a centuries-old concept that helps mold children into productive, emotionally stable, and environmentally literate citizens with the skills, mindset and inclinations to make informed choices (North American Association for Environmental Education, 2001), and it can be easily incorporated into any physical education program.

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