Learning through adventure

ALP education offers a variety of vocational experiences, from hospitality to welding, that engaged students who were otherwise disillusioned with the traditional classroom. 

Adventure-centred experiences through positive impact courses provide an active process rather than a passive process of learning. This type of adventure learning has proved popular and successful within the Alternative Learning Programme, which is intended to provide an alternative way of learning for those secondary school students who, for some reason, do not sit for the MATSEC Ordinary level examinations.

ALP education offers a variety of vocational experiences, from hospitality to welding, that engaged students who were otherwise disillusioned with the traditional classroom. Rather than losing these students, with little prospect of meaningful employment, the ALP is offering them a road leading to skilled employment and a career.

Often adventure education is linked to an incorporation of all five senses within the experiences which can heighten the opportunities for learning and retaining information. The week-long programme organised for ALP students in Malta is one such programme.

Motivational talks play a very important role in the daily programme. Students are involved in a very wide discussion on their experiences during compulsory schooling; their goals and challenges in their adult life and especially the notion that there is an alternative to academic education – a vocational education that is vital to any country’s economic well-being.

During the adventure programme held recently for ALP students, Life skills form the basis of their everyday reflection and indeed, they take care of increasing their individual achievement. Academic subjects used in outdoor activities including Mathematics, Physics and General Science were taught through activities such as outdoor cooking, Fire education and First Aid related to Fire, abseiling and zip lining. Students were also asked to sign the Code of Conduct and they were all happy that discipline played an important part of their course. Students felt happy and pleased with working in groups and this was essential in building team spirit. They were treated with respect.

However, the most interesting outcome of this adventure education is the students’ own comments, which clearly show that it was not a pastime but a vital portion of the learning curve that paves the way for employment opportunities.

At one point, one student blurted out “What if this was our school?” This student was referring to the different topics and way of teaching and most believed that “it was their best week at school in a long, long time”. Absenteeism was at a minimum and those who were absent felt that they had lost a course and its certification.

This was an immense improvement since some of them admitted that they had never attended school for a whole week. These same students, who previously found every excuse not to attend school, continually asked if they could attend with another group.

A number of students felt that this course contributed to an increase in their confidence and to a different outlook towards life. Some spoke of their aspirations and their desire to apply for a particular job, when previously they felt that they did not have any qualifications to apply for any serious position. Others expressed an intention of taking private lessons during summer time to have a better chance of passing their exams.

One particular student posted on Facebook that this experience had given her a new perspective towards education. This student referred to the ALP schooling as the best she had ever attended and that it changed her life. The student was also full of praise for her teachers.

During the motivational talks, students were made aware of the difficulties and successes of some of their peers. In fact this course was closed with the latest of CeeLo Green, Music to my Soul (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3-k-5KOduE) which recounts the difficulty endured by this musician during his childhood, to ultimately making it to stardom.

He wanted to share how “even in darkness, me and my family from the dungeons found that light”. During this song the students were incredibly quiet and some of them very emotional. However they were encouraged to learn from this experience as according to the song, “despite what was wrong, everything’s gonna be all right”. 

Overall it was an excellent exercise in adventure education. The students themselves said that they would not change anything from this experience; that they enjoyed this type of learning and that it helped them build the team spirit that would be so useful in their transition from compulsory schooling to the workplace. According to them, they can actually be successful just like all the other students.

One student summed it all up by saying that “Education should be creative, different, inclusive and fun. If this is education, we do not need an alternative learning programme”. We set out on a difficult journey and the students managed to find a new sense of direction.