When experiencing the unpredictable heights of the southern Appalachian Mountains, control is one thing that goes off the trail.
For Martinette Horner, a professor in the UNC School of Education, this was the most challenging part of the mountain expedition she took during fall break with the North Carolina Outward Bound program.
The organization offers opportunities for leadership development in the North Carolina mountains as well as the Outer Banks. In addition, they have programs in Florida and the Patagonia region that extends from Argentina to Chile.
Horner was invited to participate in Outward Bound’s four-day expedition in the Blue Ridge Mountains along with two other faculty members from the School of Education and nine educators from schools across the East Coast.This event was part of Outward Bound’s Educators Program — a course that encourages personal development for educators and experiential educational training.
“I am so used to leading a classroom and being able to control my environment — this completely flipped the setting for me because I had to learn skills for my own well-being and depend on others to survive as well,” she said.
With the help of trained Outward Bound instructors, the 12 participants were required to find and set up campsites, tie knots, navigate trails, climb rocks and complete a series of other collaborative activities as a part of the training.
“Anyone who has worked with students will know that if you want to effectively promote these skills in a traditional classroom setting, you need teachers who not only understand the skills, but also have the experience and training to integrate them into their classroom culture and curriculum,” said Michael Follo, director of education at North Carolina Outward Bound, in an email.
UNC education professor Cheryl Bolick said she enjoyed putting herself in the shoes of students who partook in similar North Carolina Outward Bound expeditions.
“I’ve had so many students come back from the trips and profess transformative experiences — for myself to experience the same process allowed me to understand their perspective and incorporate it to strengthen myself as a teacher as well,” she said.
Horner said she believes the strong connection between facing the wilderness in the mountains and educating a classroom of students lies in taking risks.
“We have to take risks — risks mean innovation to solve some of the biggest challenges we are faced with in education,” she said.
“It’s about sticking your neck out and understanding also that when you are taking risks, you don’t have to take them alone and it is a collaborative effort among all educators.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.