“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
If you want to increase a student’s confidence and improve their sense of self, provide them with opportunities to embrace adventure. Embracing adventure increases a students learning and helps them cultivate a growth mindset, which will provide them with a foundation to take on future challenges with courage and resilience.
Why Does Embracing Adventure Matter?
Embracing adventure can help a student expand their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Lev Vygotsky, famed educational theorist, developed the idea of the ZPD when studying how people learn. The ZPD is often defined as the distance between what a learner has mastered and what they can do with guidance. Research has shown that the most learning occurs when an individual is asked to accomplish a task that is beyond their level of mastery or outside their comfort zone but not so far beyond their comfort zone that is causes their reptilian brain to kick in, which can inhibit learning. Creating a space for students to safely exit their comfort zone is a key tool in helping a student shape a positive sense of self.
Additionally, challenging individuals to exit their comfort zone and enter the learning zone gives students the opportunity to cultivate a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, Ph. D., professor of Social and Developmental Psychology at Stanford University, defines a growth mindset as a way of thinking that is “based on the beliefs that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts” (Dweck, 7). Giving students multiple opportunities to try things they had not before thought possible provides them with evidence that they are capable of accomplishing new challenges with hard work and determination.
Defining embracing adventure
So how do you actually help students gain confidence and buy in? First you must set the stage by defining embracing adventure. Each student’s definition of embracing adventure is different. What is within one student’s comfort zone may be very uncomfortable for another. Here are a few activities you can try to allow your students to safely identify what embracing adventure looks like for them.
- Journal Prompts: If your students have field journals, ask them to write about what embracing adventure means to them. This will give you an initial idea of what comes to mind when they hear the words embracing adventure.
- Anonymous voting: have students stand in a circle or a line with their backs facing you before an activity that involves embracing adventure. Ask students to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how they are feeling about the activity coming up by showing you with one hand behind their back. 1 meaning “I’m feeling confident” and 5 meaning “This is very outside of my comfort zone”. This is an opportunity to get a sense of where students are at before an activity and students an opportunity to share their fears in a safe space.
- Pop- up Pookaloo: Prepare a list of statements that your students may relate to. Statements can start out more lighthearted like, I like waffles or my favorite color is blue, and become deeper as you go like, my parents are divorced or heights make me nervous. Have students lay on their stomachs in a circle with their heads down. Instruct them to only lift their heads and look around if the statement you read is true for them. This is a great way for students to gain more comfort with their peers by learning about what they have in common with one another and can give you an idea about what students are or are not comfortable with.
Activities that Help Students Embrace Adventure
Working with young people outdoors provides many opportunities to facilitate embracing adventure. If you are unsure where to start, here are a few ideas for how to set up opportunities for your students to embrace adventure in the outdoors.
- Solo walks: You will need two leaders for this activity. Along an established trail, lay out a trail of cards for students to follow. The cards can have inspirational quotes on them, directions to engage students senses, or questions for students to contemplate. Have the second leader send students every 3 to 5 minutes.
- Space walks: similar to a solo walk have your second leader or a chaperone send students along an established path every 1 to 2 minutes. Students should be able to see their classmates in front of and behind them but should still have enough space that they would not be able to talk to their classmates at a normal volume. The space walk is a nice way to scaffold toward a solo walk if students are feeling particularly nervous about being outside alone.
- Blindfolded walks: This can be done at night or during the day. While blindfolded, have students walk in a straight line with their hands on the shoulders of the person in from of them for a stretch of trail.