Learning and growing through outdoor education

Issue: Volume 96, Number 19

Posted: 30 October 2017
Reference #: 1H9fk3

William Pike survived a critical accident when Mt Ruapehu erupted 10 years ago. Now he’s sharing his love of the outdoors through the William Pike Challenge, a school programme that teaches students community connectedness and courage.

William Pike survived a critical accident when Mt Ruapehu erupted 10 years ago. Now he’s sharing his love of the outdoors through the William Pike Challenge, a school programme that teaches students community connectedness and courage.

A life-changing experience for a former teacher led to the birth of an educational programme for young New Zealanders that positively changes lives and contributes to communities.

September 25 marked a decade since the eruption of Mt Ruapehu in 2007. Then a young teacher, avid mountain climber William Pike and his friend James Christie were near the crater when the volcano erupted, crushing William’s leg with rocks and snow. With William unable to move and hypothermic, James ran down the mountain for help.

William’s right leg was amputated at the knee, and his survival was described as a miracle by doctors.

Extending the challenge

With the vision of fostering confidence and courage in other young people, the William Pike Challenge (WPC) was established in 2013.
This special school programme provides teachers with support and resources to help them grow resilient and capable young people who positively contribute to their local community.

Aimed at students aged 11–14, the programme involves five outdoor challenges, 20 hours of community service and 20 hours of ‘passion projects’ spanning one year. Both teachers and students taking part are able to use special software packages designed to track progress, save time and access resources for the challenges.

This online hub also allows students to log their journey throughout the year, and write reflections on their personal progress.

Four years since its inception, 1,400 students from 56 New Zealand schools, plus an international school in South Korea, have taken up the challenge.

Outside the comfort zone

Sarah Jamieson is a mother of four in Auckland whose daughter Emma is currently undertaking the WPC; son Ryan took part in 2016.

As a sole parent, providing the opportunities for her children to go camping and do other outdoor adventures has sometimes proved difficult.

Sarah says she saw her son thrive over the course of the year, and she’s excited that he’s extended his skills with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award this year.

“Because Ryan is the eldest of my four kids, it’s been really important for him to have strong male role models. He was the first one in his group to do abseiling, and that was really great for his confidence in particular,” she says.

“I have seen going to the outdoors and camping as something that is out of my reach, but it’s now back in my reach and it’s just phenomenal to have my kids getting those experiences.

“For Emma it’s the same – she is the only girl in the family and was shy to start. It pushes her to do things outside her comfort zone and her risk-taking skills are being pushed.”

Sarah says both children have grown in confidence and self-awareness.

“Emma’s confidence is growing – her teacher has noticed that as a school leader since doing these challenges, she has really engaged her leadership skills. Recently they went to the White Water Park and she was helping other kids and really getting her leadership skills developed,” she says.

Emily Harrex took part in the William Pike Challenge in 2014 when she was a student at Outram School in Dunedin. Now a year 11 student at Otago Girls’ High School, Emily remembers the experience well.

“My goal in year 7 was to try new things – I was someone who didn’t like to step outside my comfort zone,” she remembers.

“The WPC really helped me do that. I had played netball and my dad told me to try hockey and I wasn’t keen but I found I loved it and I am now in year 11 and still play it. Doing outdoor things was brilliant as I might not have done these before.”

Emily remembers cooking a meal in the bush with her fellow students, and William Pike himself trying the dishes and judging which tasted best.

“That introduced me to the idea of going out into the bush and surviving there without what I would normally have at home.”

“I’ve learned that I am capable of doing anything if I put my mind to it and it has been really helpful now as I am taking more opportunities that come my way instead of letting them go past me and missing out.”

Robyn Harris is a teacher at Kimihia School in Huntly, and believes the William Pike Challenge has greatly enhanced school life for the year 7 and 8 students.

“Because we’re a full primary school and there is no intermediate school in the vicinity, it is very rare for our students to leave after year six. We want to ensure they are exposed to new challenges during these adolescent years, in which their social and emotional development is so important.

“I think this programme really keeps them engaged and growing in confidence and their relationships with each other and people in the community – it really helps broaden their world.”

Robyn says the WPC helps Kimihia, a decile 3 school, provide experiences for its students they might not otherwise get, in particular outdoor adventures.

“Children get really excited about their local natural environment – they realise it doesn’t cost much to go tramping and camping,” she says.

The community service aspect is also highly valued at Kimihia, and through the WPC students have taken on activities ranging from communal knitting projects and coaching sports teams to serving meals and painting fences.

“They get to really see, and be a part of, what’s going on in our local environment, and that’s been lovely. I think that kids are often oblivious to all the people working hard to make our community and environment a better place – and they now personally know and have connected with many of them.

“We’ve experienced nothing but success from the programme – it’s been really positive for us.”

There is a cost to schools and students to take part in the William Pike Challenge. Find more information about the programme at www.williampike.co.nz(external link)

The William Pike Challenge and The New Zealand Curriculum

The William Pike Challenge creates opportunities to grow resilient, confident and connected young people.

Belonging and inclusiveness is a core part of the William Pike Challenge. The programme has a strategic relationship with the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, providing support and resources for young people living with disabilities to participate in sport and outdoor recreation.

The programme offers an exciting pathway for schools to meet achievement standards for EOTC and the Health and Physical Education learning area in an engaging and authentic context for students.

The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies:

  • Thinking.
  • Using language, symbols, and texts.
  • Managing self.
  • Relating to others.
  • Participating and contributing.

These key competencies sit naturally within the WPC programme, giving students opportunities to develop, practise, and demonstrate the key competencies in a range of original contexts.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:00 am, 30 October 2017

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