What a huge achievement it was to be nominated for a Welsh Government Youth Work Excellence Award 2020. It was amazing to see so many fantastic youth work projects alongside us. Every finalist was deserving of a win. There is certainly some magical stuff going on in youth work in Wales that isn’t always seen and even more so when you’re in the middle of a pandemic.
Although Challenge Wales didn’t win an award (we were nominated in the Equality and Diversity category), we were alongside some really exciting, life-enhancing, life-changing projects that were making a positive difference to the young people of Wales, but it was interesting to see that Challenge Wales was the only finalist to represent the Outdoor Education sector.
Although it was very nice to be the only Outdoor Education provider shortlisted, we were surprised there weren’t more when Outdoor Education plays a major part in many young people’s development…..and Wales is home to an amazing outdoor classroom!
Outdoor Education is a personal experience, helping young people develop skills that can’t be learned the same way in a formal setting, it can put everyone on the same playing field regardless of their abilities and background, it provides a skills-focused learning environment with adventure and fun within a framework of safety.
Outdoor Education gets minds exploring and encourages participants to take greater responsibility in their actions, it’s about active learning and problem-solving, it helps the understanding of the natural environment and in many creates a life-long appreciation for, and long-term engagement with, the outdoors. The outdoors can create a piece of calm and digital-detox space in the madness of the modern Covid-19 world. Our own independent evaluation of our activities evidenced the positive impact and improvements being on the water had on mental health.
Outdoor Education, and going to sea, is a truly powerful tool and residential experiences in particular, as we often see on our sail training vessels, are life-changing, empowering and offer positive spaces for all.
At the moment many outdoor education organisations are struggling while residential experiences are banned despite operators like ourselves putting in new covid-safe practices and changing how activities are run.
Everything we do in life is often not risk-free, and like all outdoor education providers assessing and managing risk is something we are very much used to….it is at the heart of our operations. We sail with the most precious cargo imaginable – people. We know COVID-19 is here for a while yet and with this uncertainty, we know we have to work with this shadow over us and adapt to manage the new normal.
For those in formal education, outdoor education will form part of the new curriculum in Wales which is supposed to be introduced in 2020. Sail training and outdoor centres are going to play a vital role in this. For those in informal and non-formal learning settings, the Youth Work Strategy for Wales is about ensuring young people can thrive and have the tools and experiences to ensure that. Sail training and outdoor centres play a vital role in this as well.
The Environment Act (Wales) 2016 and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 together create modern legislation for improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales. Did you know that outdoor learning contributes to all 7 Wellbeing Goals as well as providing ‘opportunities and activities that expand horizons within and beyond the traditional learning environment of the classroom.’ (source: Wales Council for Outdoor Learning).
Like many other outdoor education providers, we feel we can offer a fantastic, positive outdoor learning experience and this educational experience shouldn’t shut its doors on those that need it.
“I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion”
Kurt Hahn (A key figure in the development of experiential education and founder of Outward Bound)
Challenge Wales is supporting the ‘SaveOutdoorEd’ campaign and working with the sail training industry and outdoor sector to ensure its voice is heard. Feel free to tag us into the conversation using the hashtag #SaveOutdoorEd and don’t forget you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.