One of the requirements of the MSc. in Outdoor Education program at the University of Edinburgh is a four-week work placement. The experiences of my teacher friends would indicate that practicums tend towards borderline exploitive work conditions whereby the fresh teachers college student is pounced upon by the harried classroom instructor and given all manner of tedious tasks, all without pay. Luckily, with the exception of the lack of pay, my placement so far has been quite different.
In my own experiences with jobs in the outdoor education field, the norm is large groups, for short periods of time, with few instructors, and a rigid schedule. But in the case of my placement at Mobex East Lothian, the exact opposite is true, which has really been quite refreshing. Mobex, standing for ‘mobile expeditions,’ runs a wide range of specially-tailored outdoor adventure programs for young people 12-25, mostly funded by the local council and various grants. Some of the projects are actually jobs for the participants and involve doing outdoor ‘enviro-construction’ work, while others are more based on traditional outdoor activities like cycling, rock climbing, and even surfing.
A selection of the various activities I have thus far been involved in:
You may ask what many of these activities have to do with outdoor education. My personal take on this is that often the typical understanding of OE is narrowly defined to mean ‘instruction in a particular outdoor pursuit.’ This meaning does not do OE justice. My own ethos (which is very much still evolving) is that the varied activities defined as OE are a) intrinsically valuable as experiences that get people into the natural environment and b) often a means to promote personal and social development goals. Mobex seems to agree with me on this point; it is more about the adventure and the experience than the activity itself. Unless that activity is dangling people into human-sized holes, which is a truly noble outdoor pursuit, valuable in its own right : )