The inaugural trip of Chadwick International’s Outdoor Education was a huge success.
On April 30, sixty students and nine Chadwick International faculty members departed for Bangtaesan National Natural Recreation Forest in east Gangwon-do province. Upon their arrival to the forest, students were split into small groups. Each group was led by two professional outdoor education instructors from the United States. Students spent the remaining five days of their trip in their small groups rotating through three different challenging activities.
During the course, all 8th graders hiked alongside and through a creek - working as a team to cross the thigh-deep water. Students splashed and played in the clear water, while they honed their observation skills and looked for plants and animals. Each group also spent one-day climbing Maebongryeong or Guryongdeokbong. On this peak hike, students walked a minimum of 6 kilometers and reached the summit at 1,388 meters above sea level. Students pushed themselves beyond what they thought possible as they hiked up the steep trail to the summit, and returned to camp with a new perspective on their abilities - as an individual and as a group.
The 8th graders also took a day to learn about the local floras and faunas. They sang songs and danced while learning the myths about plant and animal names. Students also participated in a one-hour monitored solitude time, where they sat in a prescribed place without books or technology and reflected on their experience and their lives. Students gave back to the National Forest Recreation area by completing a service project of repairing a dirt road. Many students found the community service project to be very meaningful, and many commented on their personal desire to do more service work in the future.
Beyond these three activities, there were two moments that stand out greatly from the rest. The first was the first night when all of the students were setting up camp and came together in a big group circle for dinner. At that moment, the whole experience felt like the Chadwick Outdoor Education program that we have tried so hard to bring to Korea. The students were laughing and playing and settling into the idea that they would be camping away from home for an entire week. They were nervous and excited and were beginning to find small pieces of normalcy in the outdoors. The second was the last night when students prepared skits to share with the larger group. The skits were funny and entertaining, but were also telling of the student’s experiences and their transformation throughout the week. This was followed on the final morning by a circle in which students shared one word to encapsulate their week. I heard words like, ‘challenging,’ ‘communication,’ ‘fun,’ ‘scary,’ ‘trust,’ ‘independence,’ and ‘friends,’ - all things that I would hope the students would take away from this experience.
During the week trip, students were faced with a rainy day and night, warm sunny days, and crisp evenings. They worked together as a group, communicated their needs, and helped cook and clean for the group. After facing a real challenge, and natural consequences to their actions, the 8th grade students are equipped with the foundational skills to help them continue to grow and develop in the Outdoor Education program.