This blog outlines the concept of urban adventure and problem solving. It identifies the contributions that outdoor adventurous activities (OAA) can add to the national curriculum for physical education, and addresses how OAA may contribute in addressing health and well-being.
Issues relating to the delivery of OAA will also be discussed, as well as the major organisational factors that are to be considered when planning any OAA lesson or unit of work.
Urban adventure is the concept of bringing adventure into an urban environment. In order to fully appreciate this description it is important to understand what is meant by the term urban and adventure. Adventure can be defined as:
“Adventure is to venture forth into the unknown, to undertake an activity that has an uncertain outcome for the adventurer and may be risky or dangerous” (Miles and Priest, 1990. p.01).
An urban area can be described as an area with an increased density of human-created structures in comparison to the areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations.
Taking the above into consideration, an example of urban adventure may be an orienteering course in and around the school grounds, as this has elements of adventure such as venturing out of the confines of the classroom, whilst undertaking a challenging activity. The environment in which this activity is taking place is also urban in nature.
Problem solving activities enable pupils to engage their cognitive and affective thought and learning processes to devise ways in which to overcome problems or evaluate why a problem could not be overcome. Problem solving activities enable pupils to devise plans and strategies, adapt to changing environments and exposes them to challenge.
OAA offers a platform from which learning objectives set out by the national curriculum for physical education can be attained. Two prominent features of OAA are that of active participation can be achieved by all regardless of skill level, and that it facilitates the opportunity to succeed in challenging activities and situations (Moore 1990). A way in which pupils may succeed is through the notion of adventure.
The notion of adventure is where one embarks on an activity with an associated risk. The risk involved has to strike an even balance against competence in order to achieve peak adventure as suggested by Quinn (1990). This is important in order to optimise learning and enjoyment. However, if the amount of risk is greater than that of the competence of the adventurer then misadventure or disaster may ensue. Equally, if the competence of the adventurer is greater than that of the risk involved, adventure or exploration will occur, which is not a peak adventure experience. This may result in tedium and boredom occurring as the activity may not be deemed challenging enough for the person’s competence (Quinn, 1990).
OAA also facilitates experiential learning which is considered to be a major, if not the major, way in which we make sense of the universe (Kraft, 1990).
Mortlock (1984) suggests that OAA facilitates the development of self-efficacy, mental, emotional vitality and integrity, unselfishness, compassion, humility, courage, physique, maturity and appreciation of the natural environment. As a physical education teacher this is an attractive compliment of attributes that OAA develops.
OAA fosters an environment that promotes a positive state of health. Health is a positive state of physical, mental and social well-being (Cale and Harris 2005). This is achieved through the variety of activities and challenges comprised within a typical scheme of work for OAA.
The physical attributes promoted through OAA include strength, stamina, endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and many more. Recent developments in western society have placed an ever more increasing significance on health and well-being. Studies investigating the link between physical inactivity and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) carried out by the sports council have also reinforced the impact that physical inactivity has on ones health (Mortlock 1984).
If pupils also have a positive experience of OAA activities then this may inspire them to participate in these activities during their spare time, increasing their activity level and hopefully their general health and well-being. A vast experience of OAA activities also provides pupils with a broad spectrum of activities that may appeal to them to take up in their spare time.
Cognitive development can be attained through OAA activities as many tasks may require determination, self discipline, self-reliance, self-confidence, vitality, integrity, humility and compassion (Mortlock 1984).
Social skills are also developed through OAA activities as pupils regularly have to interact with one another, other teams and the teacher. Examples of some social elements which can be developed include that of leadership, teamwork and communication skills.
A person’s perceived competence may not be their actual competency level which may result in pupils undertaking tasks that are too advanced for their skill level. Similarly the perceived risk may not be the actual risk associated with a certain task and therefore pupils may undertake the task not fully appreciating the risks involved, which may result in misadventure or a dangerous circumstance.
OAA is often undertaken in environments and climates that could potentially be dangerous. It is therefore essential to understand the dangers that this curriculum area may pose and ensure that appropriate planning and risk assessments have been conducted along with being equipped to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
As with any area of activity within the national curriculum there is a need for organisation in order to achieve the learning objectives effectively, as well and maintaining a positive learning environment avoiding tedium and boredom, as well as ensuring the health and safety of the pupils at all times. People often associate OAA activities are dangerous due to the nature of the activities, and therefore are apprehensive to participate or teach them. This view however is incorrect when the risk involved in an activity is managed and organised correctly.
Examples of different organisational factors which may have to be considered before and during an activity could include, the team or group size, the ability amongst the teams, the equipment available (this could be used to differentiate between groups making the activity either harder or easier), and the terrain or environment which the activity is taking place within.
Urban adventure, problem solving and wider areas within outdoor adventurous activities can contribute in the delivery of an holistic education rich with a wide variety of learning encounters. Even if you are not on the doorstep of a national park there is adventure to be had in and beyond your school setting.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
Cale, L. and Harris, J. (2005). Getting the Buggers Fit. Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. London.
Kraft, R. (1990). Experiential Learning. In Miles, J. and Priest, S. (eds). Adventure Education. Venture Publishing Inc. U.S.A.
Miles, J. and Priest, S. (1990). Adventure Education. Venture Publishing Inc. U.S.A.
Moore, G. (1990). Adventure Activities for School Children. . In Miles, J. and Priest, S. (eds). Adventure Education. Venture Publishing Inc. U.S.A.
Quinn, B. (1990). The Essence Of Adventure. In Miles, J. and Priest, S. (eds). Adventure Education. Venture Publishing Inc. U.S.A.