Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Safety in Outbound Programs


Every once in a while we are faced with a grim reminder as people, as organization, as a country, that how callous are we when dealing with human life. The tragedy of young engineering students falling prey to the inviting sea near Alibaug when the college went on a “Picnic”?!! Not far back a school kid crushed his leg in one of the rides during a school trip. A year back we saw another set of young students of engineering from Hyderabad washed away in Manali when the sluice gates of the river were opened. We saw school children from Mumbai on a school trip, injured seriously while taking a horse cart ride in Panchgani tableland, another where the child was dragged by the horse and killed, and when a travel company took children to a high altitude camp in the Himalayas and had no clue why the child was having a headache. They gave the child crocin and the next morning the school child was no more having passed away in the night because of high altitude sickness. The company did not have a clue to the problem. Just by bringing the kid to a lower altitude or the plains would have been enough, but knowledge is not available and the school will not pay for having such a team and thus bus operators and all sundry have joined the bandwagon of this business. These companies still continue their business either under new names or some have even the audacity to continue the reckless business since schools still patronize them as they offer cheap service. Thus the statement in the first paragraph of this article “How callous are we with human life”. Little do we realise we could be the victim one day. We often notice parents walking on the road with their young child holding their right hand and walking on the road completely exposed to the traffic flowing from behind, despite the footpath being there. How often do we see cars, two wheelers racing above speed breakers!!! What is wrong with the collective us? While we are seeing this, one is helpless on correcting the nauseating attitude of drivers and pedestrians alike. So we can all go with the adage we are all like that only. Safety is a culture, be it at home, school, college, work place, roads or during the use of public utilities. One can never be safe enough.

Basic Outdoor Safety Tips

• Carry your First Aid Kit Always

• Check out the weather

• Dress appropriately. Wear complete safety gear during adventure activities

• Carry enough supplies

• Carry maps, torches, caps, whistle, hand sanitizer

• Plan your trip well in advance

• Keep someone informed

• Eat and drink frequently, stay hydrated

• Never leave a campfire unattended

• Never enter pools, beaches without life guards

If we depend on others for our safety then it is a big risk but sometimes it is inevitable. You hope your driver is a safe driver. When you board trains, planes, then you are outsourcing your safety concerns and here too we weigh our choice depending on our knowledge and information. More often than not we are more responsible for incidents that take place since we have taken safety as a given and for granted. Safety costs and we are often not prepared to pay since it is not a visible service. But a team of trained staff will ensure and minimise the risk you are exposed to or take. Simple things like ensuring the coach drivers are well rested, do not consume alcohol prior to driving, team eats after the guests have eaten, no swimming policy, doing a fire drill, carrying a properly checked medical kit with valid dated medicines, doing an reconnaissance of the site to be visited, checking and rechecking the form of the participants for allergies or any other medical issue, blood group and type are all to ensure the trip is uneventful from the medical or safety point of view. Trailblazers even works on the customized menu to ensure that they are ideal for the guests. There are scores of concerns specially for school or college camps that must be addressed starting from the planning stage, where and when to go, completing the procedure of enrollment at least 4 months prior to the journey, making assessments of the company they are partnering to lead them, clearly stating the aims and objectives and the learning outcomes from the trip, completing a safety briefing with accompanying teachers students and parents. These are just some of the basic protocols, there are lots more. I can say proudly that for 22 years Trailblazers has had a completely safe experience because safety is a priority and a Trailblazers culture and we continue to learn and adopt more and more safe practices. We have inbuilt protocols which are followed zealously. We have though miles to go. -Editor

Monday, 22 August 2016

Move your Classroom Outdoors

Not more than a century ago an eminent poet Sir Rabindranath Tagore created a storm in Macaulay’s world by taking the classroom “Outdoors”. This happened in Bengal at Shantiniketan and the story goes on. The only replication of it is done by Trailblazers which calls itself “The Outdoor School”. Last year when we concluded another stunning outdoor workshop series on Environment, for over 500 B.Ed. students, I had asked if they had any question - a young girl got up and said she had a prediction.

I was not sure what was coming. She said she wanted to join Trailblazers and then she predicted that the schools of the future would be such, which was being addressed by Trailblazers at the outdoor workshop! That the classroom will move outdoors. That there will be no rooms suffixed to class!

The thought  led me to think  and I wondered why should classrooms be fenced off by walls, in a way fencing off children’s minds. My team of outdoor teachers and me, have been successfully conducting classes, teaching Chemistry, Physics, Math, Statistics, Environment, Economics, Wild life, History, Geography, Sociology, all in the outdoors. The sky is our roof, earth our playground and nature our biggest teacher. What more can one ask for? These have all been truly remarkable experiences for all the accompanying school teachers, students and us. The idea is worth taking ahead.

What outdoor learning does is to fundamentally gear the senses in action thereby making the process of learning stronger. It also makes the children ask questions which sharpens the enquiry process. Many put up hypothesis and see if that applies and works thereby getting a chance to construct an idea and see its results. Many just observe and many still are dreaming. Outdoor learning evokes curiosity and wonder in children. The more fresh air they breathe, the more they play in mud, the more they dance in the rain, they become independent thinkers. These are just some of the several obvious benefits. There are different pedagogies to help them learn.

Nature in front of you is your living laboratory. It is your art class, it has History to tell you and you need not even change your geography! The light and heat have a story in Physics, the soil and water, Chemistry. You look up and see the birds fly and you look down on the carpet of grass, you sit down, you’ve just got Botany and Zoology covered. Bored? Let’s play football or meditate, do yoga! Want to do Math, the Fibonacci sequence is there to see in the way the floral designs are laid out or even in the curve of a seashell! Sociology is observing the people, for Economics you just visit the local market and in India, Political Science is everywhere. Artists take inspiration from the sunrise, Literature is inspired by emotions all around and the fragrance of the wet mud and flowers in the outdoors makes the possibilities heady!
Trailblazers, The Outdoor School’s admissions are open… join our Camp.