Now, I’ve seen first hand what the outdoors can do for a person’s creativity and sense of wonder, both of which cannot fully be explored in a classroom setting. The hard skills – math, science, and language – are the main focus of current curriculum in school systems, not excluding universities. Schools are increasingly pushing aside any sort of activity – dance, music, theatre, art, etc. – that involves the heart, the body, the senses, and a good portion of children’s actual brains. In The Element, Sir Ken Robinson attributes the lack of creative activities to the fact that “politicians seem to think that it’s essential for economic growth and competitiveness and to help students get jobs [in Industrial America]. But the fact is that in the twenty-first century, jobs and competitiveness depend absolutely on the very qualities that school system is being forced to tamp down…Businesses everywhere say they need people who are creative and can think independently. But the argument is not just about business. It’s about having lives with purpose and meaning in and beyond whatever work we do.”
I feel that people in our domain, that is, outdoor educators, have a social responsibility to use nature as an avenue to help children (and adults) explore their right-brain creativity, not only to build a stronger society and stronger workforce, but to help each individual find “purpose and meaning” in every facet of their lives. I believe that we can do this, but first must achieve our 10,000 hours in nature to really understand the means and ends of how individuals are touched by nature. I use the word “individuals” instead of children because, in my opinion, people of all ages can benefit from experiences in the outdoors. Everyone could use a little nature in their lives. On a very personal note, if I can facilitate that, well, then, that’s my meaning and purpose in life. I hope that outdoor educators elsewhere feel the same way.