“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Henry Keller
Adventure is a simple word. Everyone uses it but not many know what it is. Adventure is an unusual experience where one stretches oneself beyond what is commonly practiced. As stated in Wikipedia, adventurous experiences create psychological and physiological arousal
, which can be interpreted as negative (e.g. fear
) or positive (e.g. flow
When we experience adventure for excitement, challenge, thrill, recreation and enjoying risk taking, it is termed “Pure Adventure.” When we intentionally use adventure as a tool for learning, using challenging experiences for learning, it is called “processed adventure”.
Processed adventure is made very interesting and based on lots of fun. An adventure activity is selected for driving some lessons based on terminal objectives. Let us take the example of Rock
as an activity. The activity begins with a briefing wherein they are
mentally prepared for it. Then we go through it (action). And it ends up in a De-brief. The de-brief is where a pure adventure gets converted into ‘processed adventure’. This is where the learning is. I will like to narrate a story to illustrate this.
We had a group of Class VII students for a Summer camp. 25 students. Both boys and girls. We did both Rock Climbing and rappelling and came back. As we sat down for a De-brief session the conversation with the group began somewhat like this. I asked them to share their feelings. The responses I got ranged from mind blowing, awesome, exciting to tough, tiring etc. I went on to ask them what made them feel that way? And what I heard were words like challenge, excitement, enthusiasm, difficult, impossible etc. Then I proceeded sequentially, starting from the ‘briefing’ the previous day. We had explained what it was going to be like, how they should be dressed up etc. I had asked them if anyone had a problem. No one had responded to that. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to it.
As I went along the process of de-briefing I asked them “what was happening in your mind yesterday, when I briefed you on this activity?” Among many answers a dialogue started between me and a girl, Priyanka (name changed). It went on something like this.
Priyanka – I was very scared. I knew I can’t do it.
Me – Then why didn’t you say so. I had given you the option of not doing it if you did not like to do it
Priyanka – How could I? Everyone would have laughed at me or thought I was weak or scared and called me a ‘sissy’.
Me – Were you really scared?
Priyanka – Yes !
Me – What made you feel so?
Priyanka – I have seen such stuff on the TV and I just imagined what would happen to me if I fell down from such a height. I did not want to break my bones.
Me – But if you felt you could not do it, and you were scared, and did not even want to admit, how did you think you would manage it?
Priyanka – I decided I will go to the site and at the last minute pretend to have a severe stomach ache.
Me – Oh! Then, why didn’t you do that?
Priyanka – I saw the demonstration. I realized it was pretty safe. I was going to be belayed (supported). Even if I slip, or lose my grip, I would hang but not fall.
Me – so you decided you could do it?
Priyanka – no, I was still scared and was in a double mind
Me – Then what made you do it?
Priyanka – Two of my friends followed the instructions and did it successfully. Then I saw Sheila doing it. She is not half as physically fit as I am. I said to myself, “if she can do it, why can’t I? I also saw that the instructor was good and the ropes were strong. The entire set up gave me a feeling that chances of my falling down were low. So I thought I will take a chance.
Me – And then you did it !!!
Priyanka – (all smiles)
During the de-brief students are encouraged to express their feelings. They are probed with questions like, “How did you feel the evening before, how was the rock climbing experience, how did u feel on the top, how was the experience coming down, what was the most difficult part, which part did you enjoy the most?” Responses to these questions generate a free flow of experiences and feelings which are then skillfully (this is where the facilitator’s role comes in) related to real life situations. In this case, “You trusted the instructor. You trusted the equipment. And so you were prepared to take the risk. Do you similarly trust your parents, your teachers? Do you also see that they won’t let you down? Aren’t they as supporting”? For example, “What did you feel like when you were on the top?” leads them to say, “Oh,it was a great sense of achievement.”
Outbound experience programmes (or Wilderness experience programmes) play an amazing role in the overall development of a child’s personality. Personal growth depends on their receptivity, their expectations, a desire to change etc. When integrated with the element of fun, the willingness to try it out increases manifolds. What they learn from such an experience is far more effective than what they are told in the classroom or at home.
We have had some very exciting and interesting experiences with children. How innocently they smile and say something, how their faces show expressions of all sorts when experiencing trust, fear, joy, excitement etc. We have seen them laugh, yell, cry in various situations and they learn from each of these experiences. And that’s what makes experiential learning far more effective than class room learning.
The same is true for adults. These programmes are useful in conducting Leadership and team Building programmes. Outbound programmes with such activities, give the participants an outdoor, physically challenged experienced and a rich opportunity for reflection, self- reliance, resourcefulness, and confidence building. It also enhances their self-esteem and self-worth.