An amazing fact about the YMCA of Christchurch is that we currently deliver the most outdoor education to schools, children and young people of any other provider in the region.
This is because we are lucky to have three amazing outdoor facilities which we use to maximise our positive impact through youth development. We have over 40,000 children and young people visit our two camps and our city-based Adventure Centre each year – and we employ over fifty staff to lead and teach in these centres.
Outdoor Education (OE) is central to the psyche of New Zealanders and it is certainly a core part of the YMCA’s history as an organisation which actively invests in the development of young people. However OE has evolved a lot over the decades. YMCA supporters who remember attending Wainui Park camps in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s are understandably staunch advocates for OE practices of the time which were inherently simplistic and uncomplicated by legislation relating to safety, access or cultural issues.
Things have changed since then and the task of delivering OE to children and young people is at once more complicated and less immersive. There are restrictions, barriers and economic prerogatives which sometime inhibit the learning and adventure opportunities.
The current thinking in relation to OE is that OE should be less about risk, team work and adventure and more about how we ensure that the planet is cared for into the future and the relationship that people have with the environment. Outdoor Education which is thoughtful about place, culture, sustainability and caring for the natural environment is transferable to the urban world and context. The YMCA is particularly interested in how we hold on to our history but also provide learning opportunities which look at the extremely challenging issues of climate change, globalisation and technology disruption so that the future decision makers, leaders and guardians of our world have an opportunity to reflect on how to care for their communities. We aspire through our OE programmes to build a deeper understanding of the relationships humans have with the world we depend on.
Running any sort of OE programme for schools is enormously challenging from an economic perspective. Schools are cash-strapped, families are cash-strapped and our facilities are always run on minimum resource – all donations gratefully accepted to help subsideise operational cost or to help a child attend camp.