Unleashing independence through challenge
The Upper School Outdoor Education program immerses students in some of South Korea's most stunning natural landscapes. Living in, connecting with and exploring both local and remote locations creates the foundation for responsible and ethical global citizenship. Each course fosters a deep connection to place, peers and self that ultimately prepares students for life after graduation.
Backpacking and paddle expedition courses are increasingly led by students each year, giving them a unique opportunity to cultivate self-confidence and discover that they're capable of so much more than they thought possible.
Courses in picturesque locations throughout South Korea provide an ideal classroom for lessons in leadership, service, local and natural history, and culture. The personal and practical skills seniors learned throughout previous courses are mastered on their final rite-of-passage expedition. In this capstone student-run (and staff-monitored) Outdoor Education course, students rely on themselves and each other to lead their own backpack and paddle expedition before graduation.
Unprecedented time away from the comforts, structure and predictability of home breeds new levels of resilience, independence and relationships just in time for the transition to university, military service or whatever their next chapter brings. In every aspect of these courses, students are propelled into learning by being directly affected by their decisions and actions. Their experience becomes a mirror, allowing them to see that they are at the source of their own success and happiness.
Groups spend time debriefing after each activity, while monitored alone time gives students a rare uninterrupted chance to reflect about their experiences. These shared experiences forge new bonds, broaden perspectives, and strengthen existing ones.
Of all the activities, I learned the most about myself from my solo and journaling experience. We're usually too busy in everyday life, our thoughts are always clouded by immediate issues and looming college applications, and I was able to use this time to de-stress and really focus on knowing myself, and looking at the big picture of my life.
Upper School student
In grades 9 and 10, students embark on one of two five-day expeditions. Half the class will hone their paddle skills in North Chungcheong Province, while the other half backpacks through the mountains of Gyeongsang Province. While living and traveling together in small groups, students learn about local ecosystems and natural resource management. As they explore the scenic countryside, groups are often visited by local people, providing them with opportunities to learn first-hand about their connection to the land.
I learned to read maps and studied the river rapids to identify the best course of kayaking. I engaged the most with my group by facilitating our evening meeting as a leader of the day, and by being on the cook crew. I got to interact with people I normally don't and we built stronger bonds in doing so.
Grade 11 Student
The eleventh-grade course unfolds over nine days through a combination of paddle and backpack expeditions. Students explore remote and historical sites and have opportunities to connect with mountain villagers in North Gyeongsan as well as North and South Jeolla Provinces. Leadership is key as students design and purchase their own menus and select the best routes to their next camping destination. A full day of monitored solitude allows for deep reflection on life lessons in leadership, self-confidence, perseverance and shared humanity. This practice prepares them well for the daily challenges of high-school life and for their future senior Outdoor Education course.
The senior course is a mountain backpack and river paddle course. Located throughout Gangwon, North Chungcheong and North Gyeongsang Provinces, students are supported by staff to initiate and run their own capstone experience. Groups plan and purchase their own food, select their own routes and campsites, and use the skills practiced throughout their Outdoor Education careers to lead themselves through their final, rite-of-passage expedition. Groups join together at the end of the course for a final celebration. Students make their triumphant return home as adults, ready for graduation — and a successful life of adventure and global citizenship.