SINGAPORE - Beyond simply teaching survival skills, outdoor learning can help to enrich the lives of Singaporeans by building vital social and emotional skills, said Mr Peter Hillary, 62, son of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest.
"Outdoor learning is social and experiential and has the power to affect your heart and your emotions, which is a very powerful thing," the outdoor adventure operator in New Zealand told The Straits Times in an interview.
He added that being in the outdoors "strips away the superfluous" and "puts us into very simple situations where we are forced to reconnect with nature and those around us".
Mr Hillary was in Singapore to attend the inaugural Outdoor Education Conference, which was organised on Thursday and Friday by the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and Outward Bound Singapore.
It is part of Outward Bound Singapore (OBS)'s 50th anniversary activities and seeks to allow those involved in the sector to learn from each other and expand their knowledge ahead of the proposed expansion of outdoor learning in schools, with all secondary 3 students participating in at least one camp by 2020.
Mr Hillary was one of three keynote speakers at the conference held on Thursday at the SUSS campus along Clementi Road, speaking on managing risks and the strength of the bonds that outdoor learning can help to build.
The two-day conference gathered over 300 educators and practitioners as part of the Ministry of Education's stronger emphasis on outdoor education.
The second day of the conference moved to the outdoors at OBS's Pulau Ubin facility, where participants attempted to execute the new skills and perspectives they had acquired during the conference in a challenge race.
The race was flagged off by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Along with physical challenges like open water swimming and kayaking, practitioners took part knowledge based activities like first aid scenarios.
Mr Baey also spoke of the role that outdoor learning plays in the development of young Singaporeans, stating that: "Outdoor education plays a pivotal role in building character and resilience in our youths"