ranger-kidsby Tony Deis

Remember when Outdoor Education was chopping wood, ghost stories, building log cabins, lighting fires and fishing? Nowadays it’s playing nature games, parroting sanitized and co-opted indigenous lore, taking water quality samples and sitting in a sit spot like you’re eating your vegetables.

We’ve devolved from great acts that require great competency to monkeying what kids do when they play without us. Heck, the same goes for a lot of “Outdoor Recreation” programs that work with adults. The educator follows their school’s philosophy like a zombie.

In my 20 years as an outdoor educator I’ve heard plenty of folks say, “It’s our job to get to kids to play again.” While that’s partially true, its also important to remember, we are the guides on [a] true hero’s journey. We are the adults that show kids what’s possible. Equally missing to spontaneous play is your mother and father taking you fishing. Or the old school scout master showing you how to throw a hatchet.

“Child centered education” can often excuse ourselves from training in real outdoor skills and lore. If you yourself dare a compelling and extraordinary life, that will show through in what you share with kids. Adventure will be second nature. No curriculum, visible or invisible, required.

Remember, all models are wrong and some are useful. All methodologies of outdoor education (including and especially Trackers) are also thoroughly incorrect yet serve a purpose. It’s up to you to make those methods real by being real yourself.

A great outdoor educator is not solely someone who has trained to be so. A great outdoor educator is she or he who has chosen to live an epic life out of doors.