My work as an outdoor educator has been going for a while, yet at the same time I feel like this is all brand new. When I began my time in the Outdoor Teacher Education Program at Southern Adventist University (SAU), I had no idea what Outdoor Education was all about. Let me explain.
As a fly fishing guide, I have been doing outdoor education professionally since 2014. However, being a professional guide is just one small niche of the outdoor education world. In fact, much of what I have learned about is far enough removed from the world of guiding that it has been brand new to me. Thus, my time in the Outdoor Teacher Education Program has been one of constant learning and personal growth.
My first semester included the Foundations of Outdoor Education Class as well as Adventure Based Counseling (ABC). I also took two hours of Field Experience in Nature Study. In Foundations of Outdoor Education, I got a quick crash course in what Outdoor Education was really all about while the ABC class really reinforced for me the idea that this is just what the name suggests: education. Outdoor Education is all about personal growth and learning. Prior to taking these classes, I viewed outdoor education and especially low and high ropes courses as simply a way to have fun. In the Outdoor Teacher Education Program I learned that there was so much more to it. This can be seen in my final ABC Project shared in part four of this portfolio where I had to develop and implement a sequence of ABC activities. Throughout the intensive that first semester, I was constantly learning new things in the ABC course and throughout our different site visits. I went from not knowing much about Outdoor Education to realizing there is a whole world of outdoor education facilities, schools, and other sites.
In the next two semesters of my time in the program since that first one, I have continued to learn a tremendous amount of useful information. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area trip last September and resulting work developing my own expedition plan was extremely beneficial to me as a fly fishing guide. I have considered doing some hosted destination type trips and this experience gave me the tools necessary to pull something like that together. Prior to the Wilderness Trekking class and BWCA trip, I did not really know how to go about doing a large group trip. This experience has saved me a lot of trial and error if I ever decided to do a trip like this with my business.
Of everything I have done in this program, perhaps the most enjoyable has been my time in Nature Study classes. You can see my field notes in Part Three of this portfolio. I always want to spend more time outside simply getting to know the plants, animals, birds, and other things that make up the natural world. However, I often feel guilty as if I am wasting time if I just go sit outside. This class not only gave me permission to go sit outside, it even required it. This gave me some incredibly interesting experiences that grew my knowledge about nature far beyond what it was before this class.
One of the most interesting experiences I had during Nature Study was when I was doing a sit spot close to home in a small clearing where many birds could often be found. On this particularly day, a large flock of robins were hopping around, seemingly unconcerned about me merely a few feet away. Suddenly, they all froze, and I noticed a strange high-pitched noise. This prompted me to do a little investigation which turned up the “hawk call” that robins make. Apparently one or more of the birds had spotted a hawk which is one of the main predators that robins have to worry about. The whole flock had responded to and passed on the warning. This is what bird language is all about and just a small taste of the things I learned during my time in this class and in the Outdoor Teacher Education Program.
My goal as an outdoor educator is to be the best fly fishing guide that I can be. That includes not only taking people fishing and teaching them about the sport, but also teaching them to respect their quarry and the world around them. I also want to use the skills and knowledge I have gained to grow my business further.
Even more importantly, I want to follow God wherever He may lead. I do not know what plans He may have for me and my career. If He simply wants me to continue guiding, I will be more than content. If He has something else, than I want to be ready to follow His calling. As a trained math and history teacher, that could come as a call to return to the classroom.
If I ever go back to full time teaching, I am now more excited than I was at any point during my prior time teaching. This program has inspired me to explore the possibilities of teaching using nature and the outdoors. Kids learn so much better outside. If I ever go back to teaching, I will be excited to implement the things that I have learned as an outdoor education masters candidate.
Jesus often taught outside and used the natural world to teach the people about God. I hope to do this not only as a classroom teacher, but also as a guide and in work at church. My goal is to use the skills and knowledge I have gained in this program to serve in whatever capacity God calls me to train people about the wonders of His Creation and His love for us.