Thursday, February 17, 2011

The outdoors takes the national stage

In case you missed it, yesterday President Obama gave some inspiring, albeit slightly short-winded remarks about the America's Great Outdoors initiative that he began 10 months ago. As an organization that supports environmental preservation, outdoor pursuits, and experiential learning in wilderness settings, we were excited to tune in for his comments about these subjects. Besides, it was the president discussing the outdoors as part of the national agenda; needless to say, we were listening. We love this kind of stuff.

Although we would have liked to hear more news about the initiative itself and its implications, we were still excited to hear that, despite current budgetary constrictions, the program will be receiving substantial funding. These dollars will be allocated towards things like National Park maintenance and will hopefully encourage people to explore the outdoors more. Two thumbs up, says Costa Rica Outward Bound!

The movement comes at a time when more and more people are beginning to question the merits of America’s education system (especially in the wake of recent eye-opening documentaries like "Waiting for Superman"). Many innovative approaches to learning have been emerging as a result. Some might even be able to help answer one of the questions President Obama posed:
"What can we do to break free from the routine and reconnect with the world around us? What can we do to get our kids off the couch and out the door?"
As creative outdoor education programs gain traction, perhaps they will offer a solution. Apparently, part of Obama’s request for the initiative included a listening tour, which revealed that younger people are looking for more outdoor job opportunities. Maybe if there exists some kind of incentive to “get kids off the couch and out the door” there would be a better response.

Students learning how to perform Swift Water Rescue

Many of our students take our courses because they provide opportunities to get certifications that can be used to improve their chances of getting outdoor jobs. Our Leadership Course, for example, offers up to 7 different outdoor certifications. Our other Semester Courses allow students to experience the outdoors while earning school credit. In fact, many of our alums have reported working in the outdoors, while others have simply gained appreciation for a new outdoor hobby.

If America’s Great Outdoors initiative represents “a promise to future generations” we’re looking forward to playing a role, even if it means doing so from across borders.

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