Education Insight| Orienteering and Outdoor Education at Huili

‘The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only with the sky’ is a famous quote. Risk and challenge are the best catalyst for learning and the introduction of orienteering and outdoor education at Huili School Hangzhou has offered so much to help in this area. Immersing pupils in such environments allows powerful development intellectually, physically, spiritually, socially and morally. The very nature of such activities will prepare our pupils for possible future challenge and adversity and make them better leaders and collaborators of tomorrow.

We aspire to develop well-rounded individuals with strong values and the skills and identity to thrive within an ever-changing world. I have had many parents ask me what outdoor education is and what orienteering is, so I would like to use this time to explore the powerful benefits of this and also highlight exciting moments from our hiking and caving trip on May 15th.

What is outdoor education? 

Outdoor education simply refers to learning that takes place outside of the classroom, usually in an unknown or different outdoor environment. Outdoor education programmes offer a range of activities and so far this year we have seen the introduction of team-building, orienteering, navigation, hiking and caving within curriculum and School Activity time. The very nature of these activities draws on the philosophy of experiential education and problem based learning.

What is orienteering?

Orienteering is a team or individual activity that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain whilst moving at speed. This year we have seen the introduction of map reading, orienteering and team-building challenges into the PE curriculum for Grades 6-7. Pupils have explored a range of concepts such as; grid references, map orientation, direction, bearing, pacing, route planning and other navigational skills.

Perhaps the highlight of the year was bringing these skills together in a new, challenging and changing environment. On a wet May 15th a group of 14 pupils from Wellington College Hangzhou travelled to the West Lake area of Hangzhou with myself and Mr. Billows. The total hike was a massive 8.2km with an overall elevation of 257m when we reached the top of Nangaofeng Peak. Pupils led the navigation using a map and compass. We also explored a cave with head lamps and learnt about the topography of the cave structure and got very close to 4 sleeping and 2 flying bats!

The day was jam packed with activities including; tent building, camp cooking and other team challenges. For me as a teacher the best part was seeing pupils’ faces when they overcame a challenge or a fear or when they showed courage to try something outside of their comfort zone. Sometimes as humans we prefer to stay within what we know, but if we never try new things and challenge ourselves we don’t know what we can achieve! The rain was heavy at times, but I think it allowed pupils to demonstrate their resilience and perseverance as well as show responsibility for keeping warm and dry, finding shelter and changing clothes.

Here is what the pupils / instructors had to say about the day:

Henry Hu
Using the rope to climb out of the cave was so much fun. The most difficult bit was hiking up the mountain but we learnt about working together and trying our best.
Tony Hu
We got wet, but it was fun and we never gave up!
Kelly Wei
I thought that I couldn’t conquer the cave but I did and it was a courageous effort.
Mark Fu
I enjoyed learning about the rocks as we walked, as well as being inside the cave.
Eben-Zen Quest lead instructor
The day ran as according to our plan for a wet weather program. All the pupils did exceptionally well, both with the weather and on the activities. The pupils were well provisioned with clothing and footwear and put a great level of energy into the activities. I would like to thank your staff and pupils for making it a success and pushing it through regardless of the rain. I think the pupils gained a more memorable experience from the added challenge of the difficult weather conditions. I certainly look forward to working with you and your pupils again in the near future.