MOE beefing up team for outdoor adventure pilot project

Pupils from Farrer Park Primary School at the Dairy Farm Outdoor Adventure Learning Centre earlier this year. The MOE is planning to improve the quality of outdoor activities for students and is hiring 36 outdoor adventure educators for its pilot pro
Pupils from Farrer Park Primary School at the Dairy Farm Outdoor Adventure Learning Centre earlier this year. The MOE is planning to improve the quality of outdoor activities for students and is hiring 36 outdoor adventure educators for its pilot project.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Full-time teachers being hired as senior staff to design and facilitate camps for students

More full-time educators will soon be planning camps at the Dairy Farm Outdoor Adventure Learning Centre, as part of a two-year trial by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to improve the quality of outdoor activities for students.

Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao reported yesterday that the MOE had hired nine senior outdoor adventure educators (SOAEs) as of July. When contacted, an MOE spokesman saidsenior staff members would make up about a third of the 36 outdoor adventure educators the ministry plans to hire for this pilot project.

The new hires will start training in January next year to design and facilitate camps for primary and lower secondary students.

Outdoor adventure educators could be allied educators, such as teaching assistants or those who help with co-curricular activities, or externally recruited, but only teachers or more competent allied educators are eligible for the senior role. They will take the lead in lesson planning for camp activities and adapting overseas and local industry practices.

Currently, MOE also has two full-time outdoor programme managers, who are responsible for working with schools to plan camps and conducting research to assess the effectiveness of activities. They also conduct risk assessment of camp activities and implement safety measures.

Currently, some of the vendors which run such camps for schools rely on freelancers and part-timers, who may not have the right skills for devising programmes that are in line with MOE curricula.

APPLYING CLASSROOM LEARNING

We try to link aspects of the school curriculum where possible, like looking at land, water or rocks in geography, or bringing in topics like food safety from home economics.

At the end of the day, what you learn in the classroom is limited without real experiences that can help you apply classroom knowledge.

MS JANICE TAY, an outdoor programme manager.

Ms Janice Tay, one of the two full-time outdoor programme managers, said having more teachers on board would improve the quality of outdoor programmes. The nine SOAEs recruited so far are teachers, she said.

"They are trained and well versed in lesson planning," said the 30-year-old, who was a physical education and English teacher at West Spring Secondary School.

"They also have more classroom experience so they can impart classroom management skills. At the moment, we still have external vendors running some of the camps at Dairy Farm, but by next year the facility will be fully MOE-run."

The MOE had announced in April that it wanted to grow its pool of outdoor adventure educators to set the standard in such experiences for students. Schools have, in recent years, ramped up outdoor activities for students to help them learn skills such as resilience and teamwork. These range from obstacle courses and adventure trips to rock climbing and nature treks.

Ms Tay said: "We try to link aspects of the school curriculum where possible, like looking at land, water or rocks in geography, or bringing in topics like food safety from home economics.

"At the end of the day, what you learn in the classroom is limited without real experiences that can help you apply classroom knowledge. Outdoors, you also learn to appreciate nature and values like teamwork and resilience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2016, with the headline 'MOE beefing up team for outdoor adventure pilot project'. Print Edition | Subscribe