Each August and September grade four through twelve students take an EE trip. This year we’ll follow groups from different grade levels as they prepare for, react to and process their adventure. Before we meet the students, let’s introduce Lisa Featherstone and John Miller, two educators committed to making the KIS EE program awesome.
Both Lisa and John believe the EE program provides unique opportunities for students to grow in ways that traditional classroom learning doesn’t usually provide. Lisa explains, For starters, students are challenged through a variety of outdoor activities such as rafting, hiking, bicycling, rock climbing and snorkeling to experience the flora and fauna of Asia with curricular connections. In addition to this applied learning, students also learn life skills such as setting up tents, washing dishes and preparing meals. However, our program also has a focus on global citizenship and service. Some grade levels visit and volunteer with people who have disabilities or help the elderly. Other grade levels do beach clean ups, help protect endangered species or spread awareness campaigns. The combination of these experiences scaffolded through our program of studies from grade four to twelve makes EE trips some of the more memorable moments a student has while at Korea International School. After students depart our school for college life, many of them report that Experiential Education gave them many of the skills for independence and a mindset to successfully embrace college life. I feel fortunate to be in a position to guide students on their EE journey, to get them outside of their classroom walls and to help them discover the wonders that Korea has to offer.
To better understand Lisa and John’s shared commitment to learning through different and new experiences, I asked for a story. What in your life prepared you to walk students through this kind of learning? Short answer: Lisa joined the Peace Corps and John took a long bike ride. Now go read the long answers!
From Lisa: Peace Corps & Outdoor Education
My interest in this field began shortly after graduating college when I became a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique and Panama. While there, I helped local communities with sustainable development projects, education, and women’s rights. Following my time in the Peace Corps, I became the program director for the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program (CELP) on Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California. The CELP program is an outdoor education program with a focus on marine ecology and conservation. During my time on the island I had the opportunity to work with students from around the world and helped to foster a sense of wonder for nature and encouraged stewardship of the environment.
From John: Go Play Outside!
As I child, I was always being subjected to family excursions in the outdoors. Whether I wanted to or not, I was urged to “go play outside.” I was probably 8 years old when my mother planned a summer camp for our family and other kids in the community. We would go out to the state parks around Seattle to camp, hike and play. Eventually, I was old enough to be a counselor, as my mom’s camp grew into a full-time business. I worked in the summers throughout college and into my adult life, forging memories and having formative experiences in the outdoors.
However, it wasn’t my family business that most contributed to my belief in the power of experiential learning; it was a series of events that led me to pursue alternative forms of education. When I was sixteen, I was hit by a car while crossing the street and hospitalized. My injuries made attending school impossible for a period of time, and when I returned things were not the same as before the accident. In lieu of traditional sports, I started training on a road bike for a ride across the country, from Seattle to Washington, D.C. I raised over 7000 USD for the American Lung Association, and I grew in profound ways throughout the journey. The ride instilled in me a love for adventure and challenge that led me to graduate from high school before my peers and join my first Himalayan climb.
Because of my deep and abiding belief in the power of learning outside of the confining four walls of a classroom, I decided to help oversee the EE programs at KIS. Because the deepest and most profound lessons in life are usually those which cannot be quantified by an exam, I believe in the power of giving students the opportunity to reach beyond their personal limitations, which are often self-imposed. Because KIS is actively trying to cultivate the habits and values of life-long learning – adaptability, balance, citizenship, and empowerment – I believe that an exploration of self beyond the classroom is not only beneficial but absolutely necessary for the holistic education of each student.
Thank you Lisa Featherstone, EE Coordinator, and John Miller, HS English teacher and EE Coordinator, for telling us about the program, and for sharing your personal stories!