Another rich and full week has come to a close and I’ve dropped into my chair to reflect on the many adventures, big and small, that the past seven days has delivered. As I’m “fist and eyes” into the summer semester at school, I’ve been ruminating about teaching and learning. One of the theories I teach is that we all seek to achieve “optimal arousal.” If something isn’t really engaging or involving us, then we get bored and lose interest. If something is pushing us too hard or over our comfort edge, then we get overwhelmed, anxious and want to stop. Ideally in learning and in life, we find that sweet spot where we are engaged to the max in the present situation without being over stimulated or falling over the edge.
I’m on a steep learning curve with the new motorcycle and I’ve been thoughtful about how much to ride, where to ride, what time of day to ride, what weather to ride in, and how fast to ride. Similarly with my students, many of whom are new to the outdoors, I wonder as their teacher, how far I can get them to hike? How high will they climb? Will they manage this amount of wind in their canoes? I watch their faces and body language for clues on how they and I are managing their learning. I’m hoping, that by offering the invitation to try new activities, they will find that same sweet spot of optimal arousal/learning that I seek while riding/climbing/training, etc.
It’s been interesting teaching the courses this summer because it’s the first time I’ve taught really resistant students who often declare, “I hate the outdoors.” I’ve had to be creative and thoughtful and sometimes clever in how I respond. I sometimes reply that I was sent specifically to torture them for the summer but I’ve appreciated how their resistance has me digging into the literature. I know I need to find some aspect of the experience that they can connect to so that can get beyond “surviving the experience.”
Many of the students hope to become recreation therapists so I often cite research that highlights the health benefits of being outside. When I read one of the student’s papers on Friday and they’d made a connection between their personal experience of being outside and the potential healing benefits for their future clients, I knew I had hit the educator slot machine jackpot of a student eureka!
Marian and I spent much of Saturday sea-kayaking in Cape Broyle with friends. The weather dished up a most delightful day of sun and light breezes. The ocean swell was the perfect level to make playing in shoreline rock gardens just exhilarating enough to get my heart pumping while managing to keep my boat upright and my head clear of rocks and such. A Minke whale graced us with its presence over lunch and after a luscious nap in the sun, I tried my hand at bagging some capelin has they swam close to shore. Capelin 10. TA 0.
It had been a hard week of hormone charged emotion mostly tilting to the disappointment and frustration end of the continuum and so I needed the day out. The salt air, playing like an sea otter amid the rocks in my boat, watching a bald eagle screeching above, and sticking myself under several waterfalls all combined to free my playful spirit and wash all of the hardness of the week away. Today, a great ride on the bike, finding some basil to round out our deck garden, and eating a partridge berry/apricot topped just picked salad rounded out the weekend just right. I am re-created, re-stored, and re-charged and ready to take on another big week.
Hope you are too,