Adventure education is, put simply, the process of learning through adventure-focused experiences. Here at Avid4 Adventure, as you can probably guess, we love approaching learning this way. But we get that lots of families aren't naturally inclined toward active or outdoorsy pursuits.
"I'd never go rock climbing in a million years," you might be thinking. "Why should I encourage my kid, who's never shown the slightest interest in hanging off the side of a boulder, to learn to climb?"
The answer is this: Because it's not about rock climbing (or mountain biking or kayaking or backpacking or any of the other adventures one might get up to outdoors)—at least not entirely. It's about the laundry list of tangible, lasting, surprisingly varied skills and benefits that adventure education brings with it. Here are just a few of them:
- It's good for you: The health benefits of being outdoors (improved concentration, less stress and anxiety, lower risk of disease) are abundant, and active pursuits help kids build physical awareness, coordination and confidence in what their bodies can do. Plus, it's an easy way to encourage kids to ease back on screen time, as more hours immersed in real adventure means fewer in front of screens.
- It makes you feel good: Adventure and challenge often go hand in hand and nothing builds confidence—not to mention a pretty awesome sense of accomplishment—like facing down a challenge. Whether it's taking their bike off the beaten path, mastering a tricky climbing route or simply trying something that scares them a little (even if they fail at first!), pursuing adventure bolsters kids' self-esteem across every aspect of their lives.
- It builds good judgment: Adventure is, by definition, a risky thing. The best kinds of adventure education help kids assess the risks they're taking on, determining what could go wrong and figuring out what to do if that happens. The more practice kids get taking intelligent, calculated risks, the more independent and responsible they'll grow up to be.
- It connects you: Being out in nature in the thick of an engaging adventure forges connections. Away from school and regular activities, kids have the opportunity to reflect, clearing out the clutter in their brains and focusing on the physical task at hand. They also build social skills (communication, teamwork, problem solving) as they belay their fellow climbers, work together to paddle a canoe or find their way back to the trailhead. And, vitally, outdoor adventure connects kids to their environment, helping them understand and appreciate the natural world and their place in it.
- It lasts: Active learning—and it doesn't get more active than adventuring—gets kids directly involved in the process, stimulating their muscle memory as they learn step by step, hold by hold, stroke by stroke. So the technical skills they learn as they adventure are skills they'll walk away with (and can even help teach their indoorsy parents).
So yes, adventure education is partly about technical skills, which means your aspiring climber might end up learning to smear a slab or heel hook an arête, despite your best intentions. But they may also learn to face new challenges with confidence, approach risks thoughtfully and live life more joyfully—and who could argue with an adventure than that?