Adi was a troublemaker at school. The teachers were finished to deal with his outbursts of anger and disorder. When he wasn't dreaming, he kept distracting others. He was usually excited about something new – but couldn't stick to one task until completion. He had no friends and was teased by the other students. Needless to say, his grades suffered as a result. His school has registered with us for experiential learning treks.
Before the hike started, Adi's teacher took me aside and said he had to be watched closely. They didn't want him to push someone into risky areas.
This was not unknown to us, as 7,085 students had been with us in the past 4 years. We did what we normally do when we have energetic students like Adi. We have given him responsibility.
We asked him if he would be our Green Trails leader. Everyone was given an eco bag to collect rubbish along the way. He was responsible for seeing that when the pockets were full they were put in a sack and was so excited about his responsibility!
He was everywhere. Picking garbage, pointing out to others, avoiding many times to pick plastic that was scattered off the trail.
We saw something change. Not everyone was agile and agile like him. Some found the terrain and the slope difficult. We saw how Adi helped everyone who had problems. He held her hands in slippery sections and offered his water to those who didn't have enough. He even offered to carry the bags of those who had problems.
This was a page from Adi that no one had seen before. He was enthusiastic, kind, helpful and took his responsibility very seriously.
We later heard from the school that Adi was a changed person in class and on campus. He had a certain self-confidence and also took care of the cleanliness at school – he reprimanded everyone who had thrown away trash. He was recognized for this – and this was also reflected in his grades.
What happened here?
Adi discovered the joy of taking responsibility. His talents and strengths were given the chance to shine. Others had to see who he really was – and started treating him differently. The experience and trust it brought was transferred to other areas of his life.
He will still have challenges. But this gift he received on the hike could very well be the turning point in his life.
We saw many, many Adis on our hikes. From the experience learning programs, we have so many stories from others that have overcome limitations, fears, and lack of trust. They took this experience into their lives.
| The problem
Educational circles are becoming more aware that the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of our students is just as important as academic excellence. Whether at school or during a professional course, the need for a different set of life and work skills is becoming increasingly apparent.
Academic excellence has its place – but we see an alarming surge in students who lack self-confidence, who collapse under the slightest emotional disruption, and whose ambition has tied hands to parents and teachers alike.
It is time to think outside the box, look outside the box and take the students out of the box.
| What we see as a current need
We see a strong need for students to learn new skills, attitudes and qualities for the current world we live in.
1. You have to see that natural consequences their actions and not the consequences imposed on them by adults.
2. You have to experience difficulties and get used to them.
3. You have to strengthen your resilience by facing challenges, fighting and moving forward – because there is no other direction in which you can move!
4. You must experience the fruits of persistent efforts and see that small consistent steps in the right direction can lead to a big victory!
5. You need to experience the confidence in the mind that results from continued effort. A trust that arises when you break the boundaries of body and mind.
6. You need to experience what it means to be in awe and wonder and feel the joy and peace of figuring out who you are in relation to the universe.
7. You have to be in situations that evoke empathy and compassion and have the opportunity to express it.
8. Finally, they have to experience the result of daily reflection as a process of striving for excellence.
We consciously incorporate the above-mentioned experiences into the experience-based learning programs that we have designed. Although the hike can only last 6 days, we have found that the effects of this experience are shifting her approach to learning and growth. This triggers the change in them.
| How does a trek meet these needs?
The beauty and majesty of the mountains create the perfect setting for a powerful experience. Strong feelings of joy and amazement, which when trekking in such an environment invariably lead to cements that are experienced by the conscious and subconscious.
1. The opportunity to get used to the need
A curse of our society today is the lack of natural ways to get students used to need. Acting artificially often leads to rebellion.
Every aspect of a hike is a form of need. From the start, the students are outside their comfort zones. From the exertion of the lungs and carrying your own backpacks to sleeping on a hard surface in a sleeping bag.
From toilets dug into the ground and without running water to freezing temperatures and washing your own dishes and from rising from the sun on the summit day to trekking 8-10 hours before you can rest.
There are some complaints at first, but we see a change every day. Surprisingly, the hardest summit day has the least complaints. In such a short time they have mentally accepted the distress and after a certain point see it as a natural part of the day.
Finally, attempts to avoid this disappear and the students take on the challenges directly! For us, even if nothing else, this change makes the entire experience learning program worthwhile.
2. The opportunity to experience natural consequences
We all want our students to learn this – but most parents and teachers don't allow it. We keep pushing them forward and making sure they don't suffer the pain of having real consequences.
In the mountains it is nature in its raw form. The consequences of what we do or don't do become immediately apparent. For example, those who do not pay attention to our existence of physical preparation fight during trekking. Those who have tried to prepare have a much better experience of enjoying the beauty along the way.
The weather in the mountains is unpredictable and we have to go to the next camp before dark. W.We have to manage the site all the time. There are ups and downs. Rocks and boulders, brooks for jumping.
The weather is a challenge. It gets very cold, it rains, there can also be snow storms. So on the summit day of the hike we have a strict turnaround time. If some are late for any reason, they must turn back even if they are 200 feet from the summit. It is very difficult for us to enforce this – but we have to.
In this way, an understanding of the consequences develops naturally. The connection between the actions and decisions taken and their results becomes clear. This is emphasized in the case of reflections. This is a powerful life lesson.
3. Resilience as a natural result of getting used to need
The ability to get back on track quickly after a bad phase or a crisis is another area that students struggle with. When we help young people see challenges as a critical part of success, we help them develop their resilience.
We have seen that four days in the mountains change attitudes towards the challenges that constantly arise during a hike.
Every hour, every day, students are faced with situations they have never dealt with before. They are completely outside their comfort zones. Set up tents and sleep on hard floors in zippered pockets, wash dishes in frozen water, prepare simple meals that you can enjoy even if they are burned or uncooked.
They challenge their lungs and feet with long hours of trekking. They break the mental framework to redefine needs versus needs, comfort versus necessities.
As the days go by, they also see the changes in themselves. This observation and awareness is evoked during the reflection sessions with the trekking leader. Crises are not the end of the world. You see yourself in a new, but realistic, positive light.
They discover areas to work on, feel confident that they can, and learn to keep an eye on things.
Gradually they feel a sense of control over their minds and bodies. They know that they can ask others for help if necessary. E.When the students experience the support of the team and discover inner reserves of empathy, they discover new strengths in themselves. They willingly take the initiative to solve problems.
4. Baby steps and big victories
At the beginning of every hike we saw students who were very excited and full of energy. After an hour, many start fighting. The questions begin – how much more? When will we reach?
We then introduce them into a magic formula. We call it small steps. Take small steps, don't hurry, breathe naturally and move on. Very soon we see students who were out of breath and had trouble looking around, smiling and enjoying the beauty around them.
The actual impact of this formula can be felt at the summit. The students stand there in awe – their eyes are wide with disbelief that they have climbed all the way. If you look down, you see their performance and are amazed.
Even adult hikers take this seemingly simple lesson with them. The impact on the students is huge. You learn a deep truth – that nothing is impossible and all it takes are small steps towards your goal. You will get there.
5. The opportunity to experience awe and wonder at the natural world
Students are now aware of the need to protect nature and many are trying to do something about it. However, it is rare for students to encounter nature, to feel closely connected to it, and to have an impact on how they interact with nature.
We have seen how a hike creates this deep connection. You can see their eyes with anticipation from the first sight of snow-capped peaks on the way to the base camp.
Walking through rich forests, alive with strange scents and birdsong triggers her excitement. Camping under the night sky and experiencing the size of the Milky Way give your fantasies a whole new dimension. Standing on the top and seeing the mountain amphitheater around you is an overwhelming moment for everyone.
Some burst into tears. Most don't understand why. This precious experience has touched its core. It brings gratitude and deep connection to the universe to the surface.
6. The opportunity to express and practice empathy and compassion
We found that students arise when expectations are set and the means to fulfill them are in place to fulfill them. We do this to improve the expression of human values during a hike.
Students are divided into smaller teams during the trek and each team takes on a specific role each day. The teams are mixed and usually students who are close friends are divided into separate teams. The trekking leader explains the role and responsibilities of each team.
The special responsibility of one of the teams is to ensure the well-being of everyone every day. To see that everyone is doing well to offer help to fighters, to encourage them, and to offer help when needed.
We saw students who were initially unsure how to show empathy and compassion. Some are sensitive by nature, but many are not very attuned to the needs of others. With the right pushes and the support of the trekking leader and other employees, the students learn to put the needs of others before their own.
For many, of course, it's the first strong experience of joy you get from serving others.
7. Daily reflections as a process of striving for excellence
Reflection is the key to learning from experience. Without reflections on activities, the experience learning cycle is incomplete and learning is left entirely to chance. This requires a time-out from "doing" and resigning and checking what has been done and experienced.
Reflections are carried out individually as well as all together. Students are encouraged to verbalize their findings and observations.
Team reflections help with simple questions to talk about what went well and what didn't. They help you learn from mistakes and plan for the next day.
This daily exercise helps students learn the Kolb process of learning from experience. You can transfer this learning to other areas of life and study.
| The process we follow / What we do in experimental learning programs
We at Indiahikes see trekking and camping in the Himalayas as a unique tool that has the potential to bring about change in students.
We use the principles of experiential learning, which is the process of learning in action.
Learning by Doing has a retention of 75% compared to 20% in the classroom.
Principles of experience learning
We guide students through the phases of experience learning as described by David A. Kolb.
The Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle
The students have concrete experiences with trekking and related activities. You will then be guided through the process of reflection on your findings. The considerations improve your understanding of certain concepts.
Finally, these insights are used to improve their experiences the next day. You can also see the application of their learning to various aspects of their lives.
| The role of the mediator
The role of the moderator is of paramount importance in learning by experience. The mountains and the hike, the conditions that create the perfect learning environment, provide the perfect classroom for nature. Without the teacher / moderator, learning is entirely up to chance.
The moderators have to balance different roles – from the trekking guide through the coach to the teacher and consultant. Communicating, encouraging, motivating, inspiring and guiding your skills are the fuel that guides students with a positive attitude towards learning through the trek's experiences. This is not an easy task at all.
Training of the moderators is therefore an integral part of the program. We offer programs for continuous professional development for our trekking leaders and other support staff.
The training has several levels and refresher courses take place throughout the year. The focus is on improving their skills, knowledge, attitudes and qualities, which are necessary for the experience building. This has led to a pool of highly motivated moderators of outdoor learning.
We have left no stone unturned for the training and support of our trekking guides. We work with Experts in the field from all over the world who have decades of experience working with outdoor students to ensure that our offerings are of the highest quality and up to date.
| When does the learning take place?
On a hike, students do things they have never done before. They adapt to new conditions. There is no room for demands that would otherwise be possible in a comfortable room. You will learn to communicate more proactively and responsibly. And finally, they are accompanied by the trekking leaders / mediators to think about their experiences of the day.
None of this is easy for most young learners and there are times when they seem to panic. It is not a bad thing. It creates the right amount of stress to trigger a movement to enter the learning zone.
1. The comfort zone
Many of us work in the comfort zone. Here are the skills and abilities that we have acquired. While the comfort zone is by definition the "most comfortable", we cannot make any progress or build skills in the comfort zone, because it consists of the skills that we can already perform without problems.
2. The panic zone
If you've ever gotten so scared that you can't think anymore, you've probably entered the panic zone. The activities in the panic zone are so difficult that we don't even know how to deal with them. The general feeling of the panic zone is that you feel uncomfortable and may be discouraged.
As in the comfort zone, we cannot make any progress in the panic zone. You may be in the panic zone if you try something dangerous, far out of your reach or under high stress.
3. The learning zone
The learning zone is located between the panic zone and the comfort zone. Progress can only be made if you select activities in the learning zone. The skills and abilities that are currently not available are in the learning zone. They are not so far away that we panic, nor close enough where they are too easy.
The learning zone
When students recognize this movement and understand its dynamics, there is no going back! Each challenge then has the potential to learn and grow. A process to deal with problems is discovered. The importance of the right mental approach is understood.
For some it is a Eureka moment – for others it is a slow blossoming of consciousness.
Seeing this over and over again is a humiliating but incredibly exciting experience for us!
In the past 4 years we have observed 7,085 students from different schools in their true element. The mountains have this strange effect of bringing to the surface who we really are. Year after year, the students struggle because they are not ready for the need or the unknown to be outside their comfort zones.
We also see them bloom and literally transform through experience – not just through change.
The field is flat in the mountains, but the terrain is not! Differences that define a person in the city – no longer define a person there. On a hike it doesn't matter whether you are a girl or a boy, privileged or not, smart or weak.
This is an arena in which resilience, cooperation, a positive attitude, caring nature and a keen sense of observation are expressed. This is an arena in which exactly these properties are maintained.