Taking a Risk

So a few days ago I was at the Springvale Homemaker Centre, checking out their baby change room, when I stumbled across this month’s copy of Melbourne Child – a free parenting magazine that prints almost 130,000 copies a month.

As I flicked past the adverts for private schools and kids toys their feature article jumped out at me and begged to be read. “Taking a Risk” by Ken Eastwood was a two-page commentary on the benefits of structured and adventurous risk for the healthy development of young children, full of excerpts of his experiences with his daughter.

…I was teaching her to abseil, and as an experience outdoors junkie I knew I’d set the ropes correctly and had her ‘on belay’, so I could easily catch her fall with a second attached rope. But had I pushed a 10 year old too far? She’d said she wanted to abseil, or so I thought. Had I pushed her into it? Would she be psychologically scarred by such a traumatic experience?

A growing body of research shows quite the reverse – kids who have adventurous experiences, when they move boyond their compoft zone, are the ones more likely to excel. And not just physically – the ability to take sensible risks can have an impact on academic and social success….

Now these comments are nothing new to many of us, it’s one of the fundamentals of outdoor education. What is surprising here is the fact that this story was published as a feature article in a major free publication to Melbourne parents. Outdoor education has often been referred to as a niche vocation, celebrating it’s diversity and impact on young people. Outdoor education has just as often been referred to as a fringe profession, unable to agree on unified outcomes or methods and full of people who want to ‘feel good’ in their work.

I believe this article, although it skims across the surface of outdoor ed psych, is a celebration of the community’s awareness and belief in our ability to undertake significant personal development of young people. It’s language is easy to understand by parents unfamiliar with outdoor methods and it’s views compelling. It’s a great step toward making outdoor education a household term with clearly acknowledged benefits.

Well done Ken.

So, this begs a challenge for all of us. If the public is ready to hear about the benefits of outdoor ed, if communities are seeking more information – what stories can you share? Tell a friend, tell a mum, or why stop there…. call a journalist and ask them to pop in on one of your programs. We could all benefit.