When I went back to my old school to tell some of my ex-teachers that I was going to train to become a teacher too, there were a few giggles and some raised eyebrows in the faculty staffroom. All but one teacher asked me if I was joking, and his name was Mr. Uival. He was my Outdoor Education teacher and was fantastic at fostering qualities that set me on a path to where I am today.
His lessons removed the walls between the classroom and real life while introducing me to activities like caving, abseiling, white water kayaking, ice climbing and SCUBA diving. This was a guy I looked up to because of his enthusiasm for the outdoors and skills at nearly every pursuit we undertook as a class group together.
In my 10th year in Dubai as a teacher for Deira International School (DIS), it is a passion of mine to provide opportunities for students to experience adventures and learning in the outdoors. It’s no coincidence that as the coordinator for Outdoor Education, I draw on many of my own positive schooling experiences to develop a programme which aims to provide a diverse range of activities for students.
At DIS we have a range of annual residential camps that are aimed at promoting teamwork, problem solving, leadership skills and tie into various curriculum areas. These are often the highlight of many school kids’ year as they spend time away from home for up to four days becoming more independent and self-confident. The camps are also a great way to help form lasting social bonds between students where they work and play alongside others who they might not otherwise share classroom or playground space with. DIS is also proud to deliver the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as an Independent Award Centre.
There are the obvious seasonal restrictions in the UAE and when it comes, it’s time for teachers and parents to decide what activities might be available for students to take part in. Getting kids into the outdoors can be a challenge if you don’t know where to look outside of the malls and common attractions. One way we have managed to encourage students to get active and involved during holiday periods is to provide our own Holiday Adventure Programmes in partnership with various local providers.
These work well for busy parents with kids that like to try new things like SUP (stand-up paddle) boarding in partnership with Surf House Dubai. Or perhaps a day out snorkelling with turtles in Dibba from one of the diving operators. We’ve even set up orienteering type challenges around the school campus where small groups use site maps and compasses to locate checkpoints and prizes along the way. Many of the activities provided are ways to simply motivate students to try new things that perhaps sometimes put them outside of their comfort zone but ultimately gain a lot of personal satisfaction and reward from.
The writing I’d like to keep sharing with OutdoorUAE magazine will hopefully serve to inspire teachers, parents and kids to try some of the amazing opportunities available to us locally and perhaps further abroad. Having somebody at home or at school with the desire to pass on their enthusiasm to kids to try new things and push personal limits is key. I have fond memories of my Primary School camps, Secondary Outdoor Education and all of the other adventure pursuits I’ve undertaken. At the core of this have been passionate teachers and encouraging parents. It is my hope that I can be as inspiring to the kids I teach as Mr. Uival was for me. All I needed was an introduction to the outdoors and the rest is now history. Watch this space for tips on where to go and what to do for lots of fantastic adventures…
Words + Photos by: Haydon Kerr