What can our students learn from COVID-19
There's a lot of talk about experiential education, outdoor recreation, and our role in society after this pandemic has blown up our usual routine. It's only natural, in these times of uncertainty, to look inwardly about what we do and how we do things. We certainly have the time for this as we sit around with nothing but Netflix to entertain us.
I'm certainly not the expert on this as my programs, both at Alpenglow and Long Beach State have suffered tremendously because of cancellations. I don't know what we can do to minimize the risk of infection on our courses beyond the obvious. I also don't know what value our society post-pandemic will place on our programs. I'd be hesitant to believe anyone that says that they do. What I do know is that I'm an optimist, and pride myself on being able to see the opportunity when adversity rears its ugly head.
With this optimism in mind, I think the biggest thing I'm going to take away from this pandemic is our students' ability to use it as an example. What do I mean by that? Well, one of the few things we know about our programs. Like, really know about our programs, is their ability to increase resilience. Resilience, roughly put, is our ability to deal with setbacks and hardships.
It used to be that I would have students on course, and when asked about why they should be on that trip, I'd tell them that it's good for their resilience in case something bad happens. "Like what", was a usual follow up question. I would point out traumatic events like 9/11, or the loss of a loved one, neither of which young people today have experienced (although obvious exceptions apply).
COVID will provide a real, tangible experience we can now point to as context for learning for our students. We can use this situation as a way to apply the knowledge they're learning on our course. And to use as fodder for our debriefs. As I'm sure most of you know, having a tangible application for learning can drive home that learning. Knowing that things like the pandemic can happen might enhance their interest in gaining that attribute. Long story short, now they understand why they need to learn stuff like resiliency.
How do you think your program or courses will be different? There's some great information coming out of the Association for Experiential Education if you'd like to read up more about what others are thinking relative to this idea. But, please share your thoughts in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!