Sunday, July 14, 2024

Experiential Learning

By Glenda McCarthy

College of the North Atlantic (CNA) has a long-standing belief that students don’t have to sit in a classroom to learn new skills.

That belief led to the creation, and continuation, of the Adventure Leadership Camp during Reading Week break in March.

Chris Tompkins photo
Chris Tompkins photo

CNA built upon the success of last year’s initiative and offered the camp for a second year with six students and two instructors participating in the three day, two night backcountry skiing/snowboarding winter adventure.

Students from across the island gathered at Corner Brook campus to make the trek to Gros Morne National Park on March 7, where they gained experience in leadership, outdoor safety and teamwork.

Jeff Martin, program developer for experiential education, says the students take so much from these types of activities.

“The purpose of the trip was to develop a number of key initiatives, and one of those was expedition behaviour,” Jeff says. “We support leadership and growth in everyone so that they do their share, get organized, help others, and follow an integrity model which focuses on being honest and accountable. These are all things they will use in everyday life.”

He says they were able to provide students with a fun, safe and memorable experience in a remote wilderness setting.

“We provided opportunities for leadership, and each student took the lead during the three days. They made group decisions, and we also looked at outdoor safety skills and teamwork. We went through avalanche safety, and let them assess areas where to ski and whether it was safe to go or not.”

According to Jeff, the Adventure Leadership Camp is important because students learn valuable skills by taking part in everyday activities.

Chris Tompkins photo

Developing leadership skills is fairly critical these days because in working with groups identifying that all groups need followers, and vice versa, in order to accomplish goals. It also helps to develop critical life skills, such as self-reliance, accountability, communication, and it also helps with the ultimate goal of self-advocacy,” Jeff says.

“A lot of what happens on these trips are highly transferable to academics and their personal and professional life. (When) dealing with school groups, working in classroom groups as well as how they model themselves outside of schools, it helps them prepare for their professional lives and become more confident.”



Positive impact

 Chris Tompkins of Lakeville, New Brunswick knows how beneficial these types of trips are. Not only did he take part in CNA’s Adventure Leadership trip held in September for new students, but he was a guide in a wilderness camp for disadvantaged youth in Ontario.

“I’ve seen, from experience as a canoe expedition guide for a wilderness camp in Southern Ontario, the effects that the wilderness can have on anxiety and depression in the developing mind,” Chris says.

“On our canoe trips in the provincial parks of Ontario we would give these youth experience that they’ve often not known in their lives, and allow them the time and space to reflect on issues and how they can move on and develop. We would use leadership and team-building exercises in the wilderness to develop a sense of belonging and cohesion and also compassion in these teens.”

Chris Tompkins photo
Chris Tompkins photo

He feels remote places eliminate distractions of the mind and have a positive effect on anxiety and depression. They can also have a profound effect on humility and confidence, he added, which are essential qualities in a career.

“Part of growing into a career is learning how to work with people who you may not know, and learning to work effectively in this situation. Watching group dynamics unfold on wilderness trips, such as the ones provided by the CNA, it is easy to see the self-realization happen in the individual and this sense of cohesion grow,” Chris says.

“The wilderness removes an element of luxury that allows for creation of true experience where the future professional can fully develop. Through the expedition, behaviour displayed when there are many tasks to be completed by the group, and by understanding one’s role within the group, you may more completely understand the role you play in society and the working world.”

Chris, who is enrolled in the carpentry program at Carbonear campus, says the wilderness is an ideal place to learn about working together safely with people who have different backgrounds.

“It helps the individual to discover their strengths as a leader, and how to fully expand upon those strengths in the development of a career.”

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Glenda Tompkins
Glenda Tompkins
Glenda is a 20-year marketing and communications veteran currently specializing in photography/videography and social media management. She has garnered multiple awards for her innovative, strategic campaigns at CNA. Her experience includes writing, editing, graphic design, event planning, and more. When she’s not reviewing social media engagement analytics, she enjoys spending quality time with her young family.


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