Experiential Learning: Ski School

Image Source: Move Me Quotes

Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing”. Experiential learning is distinct from rote or didactic learning, in which the learner plays a comparatively passive role. – Wikipedia

I’m a huge believer in the value of experiential learning because one of the most effective ways to learn is to learn by doing. And when it comes to experiential learning, there are two activities at the top of my bucket list: camping and ski school.

Recently, the boys got to experience Ski School at Falls Creek and here’s why I think Ski School is absolutely one of the most awesome experiences a child can have…

Learning is Experience. Everything else is just information. – Albert Einstein

The Mental Benefits

This is by far the top benefit of taking the kids to Ski School… I can teach my children most things, but the one thing I struggle to teach them is how to stay strong in the face of adversity.

We keep talking about how important it is for children to develop grit, mental toughness, and resilience in order for them to be successful in life. Well, there is only so much we can do before we have to hand the reigns over to our children and let them discover their own inner strength. The only way they can make that discovery is if they get the opportunity to learn first hand. Ski school can provide one of those opportunities. To be clear, I’m not talking about a one-off skiing experience, but repeat exposure. There are no magic bullets in life unless you count time – put in the hours, be dedicated about it, and there will be results.

Like rock climbing, skiing is one of those sports that challenges children on a deeply personal level. During the process of learning how to ski, there is the fear of falling, being out of control, going too fast – things that make them want to lean backwards when what they really need to be doing is pressing forward in their skis. Learning to get a grip on the fear, controlling it, and keeping it contained so they can do what they need to do is such an essential life skill. This will not be an easy lesson for some children, but if we give them enough practice time, they will get better at it, and when they do, they will have a powerful memory of how they struggled, persevered, and triumphed.

Outdoor learning

The outdoor nature of ski school means it provides ample opportunity for outdoor learning which can be beneficial in so many ways:

  • Outdoor learning can have a positive impact on long-term memory – there can be reinforcement between the affective and the cognitive, with each influencing the other to bridge higher order learning.
  • There is substantial evidence that outdoor learning has the potential to raise attainment – improved engagement, achievement and motivation to learn.
  • Outdoor learning is able to improve the development of responsible citizens – renewed pride in community with greater sense of place, of belonging and responsibility
  • Impact positively on children and young people’s interpersonal and social skills – effectiveness, communication skills, group cohesion and teamwork.

Nature Immersion

Ski school re-connects children with nature which offers these amazing benefits:

  • stimulates cognitive development and creativity
  • reduces likelihood of developing myopia
  • eases depression
  • improves outlook
  • improves focus
  • strengthens immunity

Physical Skills

It gives children opportunities to develop physical skills:

  • acquisition of new skills and techniques
  • develop mobility, balance, fitness, coordination
  • understand the effect of altitude on the body
  • develop physical strength and stamina

Cognitive Benefits

Skiing is a great workout for building the brain:

Character Building

Ski school offers children a terrific opportunity to develop important life skills:

  • independence
  • team building

Ski Independence

The purpose of experiential learning is to give children a rich environment to learn from and Ski School offers exactly that.

Related:

4 Reasons Why Kids Should Choose Physical Play Over Handheld Gadgets

Studies show that 64% of children in the UK play outside less than once a week. This is a worrying trend for parents, especially with childhood obesity steadily increasing. More and more children use handheld devices, such as tablets and mobile phones to access information, play and network with other children. In moderation, these technologies can have brain training and educational development benefits, but these are no match for physical activity in terms of overall health, cognitive development, and general well-being.

Improving heart health

Children require around 60 minutes of physical activity each day, with at least three days of rigorous activity and the rest at moderate intensity. Activities can include anything from swimming, skipping, jumping, dancing or climbing. As long as the children are moving and the activity increases their heart rate, it will contribute to overall heart health.

Fostering social skills

Much of the time spent sitting in front of a computer is solitary time, even if children are using online platforms like Facebook to chat and engage with their friends. Physical activity is vital for social and emotional development, and it improves confidence. Taking part in outdoor games, sports and activities teaches children important skills, such as teamwork, leadership, and empathy.

Stimulating brain development

Physical activity stimulates brain development in several ways:

Enhancing emotional well being

Studies show that those who meet the recommended uptake of exercise each day reduce their chances of developing anxiety and depression. Physical activity also releases endorphins (happy hormones) which improve mood and boosts confidence.

Encouraging children to get active

There are many ways to incorporate educational activities into your child’s routine whilst ensuring they are getting an adequate amount of exercise. Toddlers require around three hours of physical activity each day. You can easily incorporate this with easy, stay at home activities:

  • games like balloon badminton, newspaper hockey
  • dancing to music, musical statues
  • follow the leader
  • create an obstacle course from things you have lying around the house

You can also get children away from the computer or mobile phone screen and outside in the fresh air. Bouncy castles and inflatable toys, which you can find at Tesco online, are a fun way to get little ones moving and working up a bit of a sweat.

The benefits are clear – physical activity is good for your children’s general health, social skills, brain development, and emotional well-being. Now it’s time to get your children out there and active. They’ll thank you for this in their later years, or even before then.

Images by bimurch and The Big Lunch, used under Creative Commons license

Physical Activity Predicts Academic Achievement

Active children

Photo Credit: Health Xchange

Some time back, we wrote about the importance of sports and physical activity for brain development and academic performance. Recently, we reviewed a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine – that was published after our previous article – which reinforces this fact.

In light of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles in the age of the Internet, I thought it serves as a healthy reminder to us to continue to encourage our children to keep up their physical activity levels. Even Tiger Parents will approve this one because the study supports the findings that children who were more physically active performed better in standardized tests for Math, Science and English compared to those who received less physical activity a day. So if top academic results are your motivation, don’t cut the sports.

Physical Activity Predicts Academic Achievement in Adolescents

Overview of the study:

  • 4755 subjects aged 11 were followed longitudinally up to age 16.
  • recorded physical activity levels and results from Nationally administered school assessments in English, Math and Science.
  • the percentage of time spend in moderate to vigorous physical activity predicted increased performance in English, Math and Science test scores.
  • results suggest a long-term positive impact of moderate to vigorous physical activity on academic achievement in adolescent children.
  • results were adjusted to take various factors into account that could affect school performance, such as birth weight and current weight, the socioeconomic situation at home, and whether the mother smoked while pregnant.

Source: Booth JN, Leary SD, Joinson C, et al. Associations between objectively measured physical activity and academic attainment in adolescents from a UK cohort. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:265–270.

How Much Physical Activity?

If physical activity is good for academic achievement, then how much of it are we looking at? In the study above, they found, on average:

  • 11 year old boys spent 29 minutes a day engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • 11 year old girls spent 18 minutes a day engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Given the fact that the study found evidence for a dose-response effect of physical activity on academic achievement, it would suggest that more physical activity is better. But how much more? General recommendations across the board (WHO, CDC, AHA, etc.) is at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.

Physical activity predicts academic achievement

Are your children getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day? Looks like we’ll have to up the ante as well…

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