Education Ministry runs pilot outdoor adventure camp programme

Currently, most schools come up with their own camp programmes, which are conducted at four outdoor adventure learning centres managed by Education Ministry.
Faris Mokhtar Channel NewsAsia 9 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Schools will be able to attend outdoor adventure camps designed by the Education Ministry, instead of coming up with their own programmes, if a pilot programme developed under the new National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan is successful.

The programme hopes to prepare students for a five-day camp at Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) for all Secondary 3 students.

At the Dairy Farm Outdoor Adventure Learning Centre, one of the activities students will get to do is to learn how to turn leftover food into compost. This is part of a three-day camp run by the Education Ministry (MOE) under a two-year pilot programme launched in January. The Dairy Farm centre is being used as a testbed for the programme.

Currently, most schools come up with their own camp programmes, which are conducted at four outdoor adventure learning centres managed by MOE. They then hire private outdoor adventure operators to facilitate the activities.

"There is value in diversity, but there is also value in guiding schools in the kind of objectives that we look forward to in an outdoor setting,” said Dr Suzanna Ho, a senior specialist of outdoor education at MOE. “Because at the moment, if let’s say, schools design their own camping programmes and all, they all have different objectives, which is not wrong. But I think to layer it, we want schools to be able to have very considered objectives about why they are camping."

POOL OF FULL-TIME EDUCATORS

The ministry is also building up its own pool of full-time outdoor adventure educators under the pilot. The role of these educators will be to conduct cohort camps for primary and lower secondary students to prepare them for the new expedition-based camp for Secondary 3 students at OBS.

As of now, there are 16 educators at the Dairy Farm centre, all of which have completed three months of training with OBS and Republic Polytechnic. Some also used to work as allied educators in schools.

“I actually have my roots in outdoor education, all the way until even when I moved on to secondary school and beyond,” said Mr Melvin Lee, one of the outdoor adventure educators at the Dairy Farm centre. “So that's why I thought, this is a good opportunity for me to make the right switch to actually become an outdoor adventure educator.

Ms Lim Leng Er, the programme chair of the diploma in outdoor and adventure learning at Republic Polytechnic, said the training provided involved three aspects. The first involves equipping outdoor adventure educators with technical skills as well as safety and risk management, while the second aspect touches on nature appreciation.

"The third one would be facilitation skills - how to bring out quality learning during programmes," she added.

Compared to private operators, who may rely on freelancers or temporary staff, the ministry said having a core of full-timers means it can set standards and inject new ideas when it comes to delivering quality outdoor education.

“We need people who are competent and passionate,” said Dr Ho. “For instance, in teaching, you need competent and passionate teachers, in order to bring a subject to life. So, in the same way, we need some of these competent outdoor educators in order to role model for our students and to show the way about the 'adventure spirit'."

RAMPING UP FACILITIES

As part of efforts to enhance outdoor education, the ministry will also ramp up facilities at all four of its outdoor adventure learning centres located at Dairy Farm, Labrador, Jalan Bahtera and Changi Coast. This will allow them to cater to more students, who say going through camps help them get out of their comfort zone.

“If we learn outside our classroom, we are like moving around, taking part in the activity and learning at the same time,” said Primary 5 student Aaqil Mohd Bilal from Farrer Park Primary School.

The ministry said it will review the pilot programme after two years, and is looking to extend it to the other centres.

- CNA/ek

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