UWC Thailand International School
Submitted by: Rob Carmichel, Head of Outdoor Education
Appeared on the ET Journal Winter Issue 2022
A look at an innovative educational experience that goes beyond the walls of the classroom, across subjects, and even vertically to affect other grades. Rob Carmichel, Head of Outdoor Education at UWC Thailand, takes us through an inspiring unit that students from Grade 2 typically start their year with.
The unit is based on the PYP unit of inquiry ‘Sharing the planet’. The focus of the unit is how finding solutions to conflict brings change. In this instance looking at conflict and relationships with nature. The learning is taken far beyond the classroom and is enhanced by collaboration with other subjects and pillars of the school including; Outdoor Education, Mindfulness, Service Learning, and Thai Language and Culture. The Students go on three hikes over the course of three weeks that aim to show different aspects of our relationship with the natural world.
Hike one - human impact on nature: A remote coastal trail that is exposed to the strong westerly currents washing all manner of trash onto what would otherwise be a pristine coastline. Students are asked to document their journey on ipads and make comic books about it later in the homeroom where they note their insights.
Hike two - nature working for us: A 5 km walk around a reservoir that supplies the local area with its drinking water. Students get to see, think, and discuss how we are reliant on nature for even the simplest of our necessities.
Hike three - national park trek: An opportunity for students to consider the importance of protecting wild spaces, not only for our own enjoyment but for the benefit of other living things we share the world with.
During the course of these three hiking experiences, students are joined by the school’s head of mindfulness and asked to engage with their thoughts and feelings, and again later in class reflecting on the experience. Having the opportunity to pause and see how we feel in these spaces provides students with the opportunity to truly explore their thoughts and feelings can be quite powerful. During the reflections, there are always some incredible insights shared by these young students and are uniquely documented in both digital and hand-drawn/written comics.
This unit is furthered yet more by using Thai Language and Culture classes to discuss the vocabulary and ideas of what the topic of conflict means in this cultural setting, allowing greater connections to be made using this place-based pedagogical approach.
For the final piece of this learning experience, students are asked to present their comic books to both Grade 6 and Grade 12 students. The Grade 6 students will take the information from the comic books and map out the areas with the most significant volume of trash using the navigation skills they have worked on in the previous weeks of their own Outdoor Education unit.
From both of these previous activities, the Grade 12 students will soon after organise a student-led trail clean as part of a school-wide service day. The information they have been given is used to prepare teams to tackle the trail clean more efficiently.
About the Author
Rob Carmichel is the Head of Outdoor Education at UWC Thailand. For more information about learning at UWC Thailand visit: www.uwcthailand.act.th and follow Rob Carmichel on LinkedIn.