I'm a writer, educator, and adventurer, who applies research-based practice and data-based decision-making to outdoor adventure education. In whatever I take on, I strive to facilitate experiences that put students at the center of their own learning by presenting real-world problems to be solved collaboratively. This is what it means to be an experiential educator.
Outdoor Adventure Education
Mark Collard once distilled adventure learning into learning through unanticipated outcomes. Outdoor adventure education, then, is much more than backpacking, canoeing, or what-have-you. It is learning directly through experience in a natural setting within a small group.
I work to better align recent understandings in psychology and neuroscience with what outdoor educators have known for decades: What we do works. But we can make it better. The quandary of learning transfer from outdoor adventure settings has long vexed practitioners. My work addresses that, and it's what sets me apart from other school psychologists and other outdoor educators.
In 1997, Martin Seligman added a new phrase to mental health workers' lexicon: Positive psychology, the promotion of human flourishing. The medical, especially mental health, industry is based on getting clients to a state of "normal." But how might we ensure clients don't just get to "normal," but flourish? How might we help clients not just survive, but thrive?
I take the principles and practices of positive psychology and apply them throughout my work, from the classroom to the wilderness. If we're not incorporating the promotion of positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishment into our work, then we're not really helping our clients thrive.
Programs spend a lot of time fixing problems. Sometimes simply finding the problem is more important. Finding the right problem to fix means saved time and energy. A big problem often overlooked in organizations? Working from a deficits-based model.
Too often, organizations work with the mindset: We need to address the gaps, the deficiencies, the negatives. But what if we started from a strengths perspective? What if we tried to catch good in our clients instead of catching the bad? What if our staff used their strengths as the starting point to address the skills and competencies we need in them? This doesn't mean we neglect problems. It means we use our strengths to their full potential.
Creating and maintaining high-functioning teams: it's not easy. Too often we think that a day on the challenge course or an afternoon of icebreakers and energizers will be the immune boost necessary to counteract burnout, callousness, and infighting. But the civic virtues that underlie a healthy team take time and patience to cultivate.
Participants won't remember what they did, but they'll surely remember how they felt during their time together. That's in the forefront of my mind when I facilitate college organizations, adult artists, high school students, or summer campers.
Risk management: It's more than just checklists. It permeates a program's culture and habits. It requires attention before clients even arrive for programming and even before staff are hired.
Incorporating systems that utilize research-based practices and data-driven decision making most intrigues me. Below are just a few examples of how I've applied my certifications and training to outdoor adventure education.