If you’re looking for a nontraditional job that allows you to live life on your own terms while still making a difference in the world, adventure education could be the career you’ve been waiting for. There’s a wide range of opportunities in the field of adventure education, and you can share your skills while guiding students toward a deeper understanding of themselves — all while enjoying the great outdoors.
A Look at Adventure Education
Adventure education programs expose students to unusual challenges to help them learn new skills. Though adventure education programs include a healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine, they also incorporate physical activities, trust exercises, group problem-solving and much more — often against a backdrop of majestic scenery.
Don’t let the setting fool you, though: Adventure education is more than just a rock-climbing outing or ropes course. High-quality programs are based on the principles of experiential education and focus not only on physical growth but also on psychological, cognitive and even spiritual outcomes. Adventure education is student-centered and addresses the whole person. The results can be transformative.
To find out more about adventure education and its holistic approach to learning, see the article, “What Is Experiential Education?” for additional details about this fascinating field.
Roles and Training for Adventure Education Instruction
Because adventure education programs that incorporate experiential learning principles are more than just an outing with a guide, leading these programs requires a variety of skills and competencies. Specific training in outdoor skills, such as rock climbing, camping, canoeing and backpacking, is important for the outdoor components of the program. Just as important is competence interacting with people – facilitation, leading groups, flexibility and managing change.
Ethical standards ensure that all instructors and practitioners of adventure education keep the best interest of their students and clients at the forefront of their work. It is critical to have a full understanding of confidentiality guidelines, best practices for working with a wide range of clients and the overarching mission of experiential education.
The adventure educator uses a wide range of activities to stimulate learning and self-reflection in their students. Common activities include — but aren’t limited to — the following:
- Adventure activities, such as rock climbing or whitewater rafting
- Cooperative games
- Icebreakers for groups
- Low- or high-constructed activities or obstacles, such as ropes courses
- Service learning
- Wilderness expeditions
Adventure education programs may combine indoor and outdoor activities to create a holistic experience that addresses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs for the best possible outcomes.
Insights from Adventure Education Instructors
Pursuing a career in adventure education can be a highly rewarding endeavor. As Lark Gardner, an 11-year veteran instructor at North Carolina Outward Bound, puts it, “My students have humbled me, shocked me, inspired me, and one of them even told me the secret to happiness. What was at first the hook — and continues to be the reward — are the students.”
Lark adds that it was always her dream to live outdoors as much as possible, so her career in adventure learning was a natural fit, and it surpassed her wildest expectations of what work could be like. “I became an Adventure Educator, and now I get paid to go on the adventures of my dreams. [But] I didn’t know that it would force me to become a better person.”
Doug White, Adventure Coordinator at Evergreen Community Charter School, agrees that watching students develop and change over time is extremely satisfying. “It is rewarding to know that by asking questions and then simply creating a space for students to answer and make choices, they emerge as more responsible, more respectful, more confident and more accepting individuals — by their own choosing.”
If a career in adventure education sounds like just the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to combine your love for nature with a desire to positively impact the world around you, it’s time to take steps to get the training you need to excel in this rewarding field.
Ready to get started? Explore our programs page to learn more about adventure education today.