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hard feet; soft souls

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

In outdoor education, there has always been a lot of talk about hard and soft skills. Hard skills (feet - sole on the path) being the qualifications of an instructor, be it with compass and map, rope and knot or backpack and tent. Are you prepared with the right knowledge, skills and resources to protect yourself and others in your care and lead them through an enriching experience?  However, in the educator's tool-belt, there must be soft skills the soul of pedagogy, the way to talk, connect and collaborate with people. In my view, the most important skill in the set is the ability to transfer the learning. To take the experience to unpack it, realise it and then reestablish it in other contexts. 


I spent five years with one pupil teaching him to Eskimo roll. It wasn't just the skills he lacked: position his body, sweep his paddle and right his kayak; mostly he lacked the confidence. His fear of being contained underwater; not at all unreasonable; slowed his ability to completed the task. Anyway, in his final year, as head boy, he achieved it; now he is a successful doctor! (He helped South Africa through Covid-19) The two may not be directly linked, but as he learnt to conquer his fears and work under pressure (upside down in a kayak!) I hope I taught him some of the life skills he needs now; transferred to the operating theatre!


Kurt Hahn"I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion.”



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