Outdoor education provides a source of learning experiences that can motivate learners and boost their skills and versatility. Defined as organized learning conducted outside the classroom, it is implemented by outdoor education facilitators. These professionals participate in the development of outdoor learning programs, train instructors, supervise activities and ensure the safety of students or participants. Although many facilitators are employed by school districts, colleges and universities, others work for organizations that provide outdoor education services.
Using the Skills
Competent outdoor education facilitators require a blend of strong instructional and analytical skills. They must train participants in how to safely perform activities such as hiking or canoeing, as well as assess the effectiveness of outdoor learning programs. Interpersonal and communication skills are also essential to the facilitators. They must establish positive relationships with learners and share information in a clear and understandable manner. Since outdoor education facilitators may need to lift heavy training equipment, they should have a good level of manual dexterity.
The main duty of an outdoor education facilitator is to plan and implement outdoor learning activities. When, for example, a college wants some students to engage in an outdoor learning activity, the facilitator determines an appropriate activity and identifies a venue. If the activity requires special equipment or items, she informs the school administration to purchase them. In cases where the equipment is already available, she oversees its maintenance and transportation to the venue. During the activity, the facilitator supervises instructors and, if necessary, helps them teach the students.
Another duty of outdoor education facilitators is to address problems or emergencies that arise during outdoor learning lessons. For example, if student campers are unable to erect tents on a rocky surface, the facilitator may organize the delivery of sturdy hammers to drive tent pegs into the ground. Outdoor education facilitators ensure students adhere to all program rules and create a positive learning environment. They also coordinate the training of activity instructors.
Aspiring outdoor education facilitators need a bachelor’s degree in outdoor education, outdoor recreation or a closely related field to enter the profession. Many employers prefer individuals who have completed the Wilderness First Aid or CPR courses offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School and CPR Today, respectively. Ambitious facilitators can pursue a master’s degree in outdoor education or leadership to enhance their chances of becoming directors of outdoor education in school districts or colleges and universities.
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