Many folks in the outdoor and environmental education fields can relate to Mark Hickman: “As a young man, I wanted to be the guy [professionally] climbing the mountains and running the river.” Of course, it’s not quite that easy, and we’ve all had to invest time, train, and pay our dues.
Starting off with the modest position of cook, Hickman worked his way through the ranks for over 30 years to become an instructor of adventure sports coaching and outdoor leadership skills at the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom. And, his years of experience have led to some intriguing conclusions, particularly regarding the direction of outdoor education and expeditions:
“Following World War II, expeditions focused on a militaristic attitude of building the participants’ character — making them more resilient in the face of challenges. More recently, that has changed to a focus on personal development based around environmentalism, Hickman said. But he predicts a change in the next decade as the business focuses more on the outdoors as a resource for public health for an aging and more obese population, as well as for relief from increasing social isolation and depression.”
According to Hickman, “If we could change people’s perspectives and make a small impact on physical and mental health, it would be a reinvention of the outdoors.”
Many are witnessing shifts within outdoor education, in both people’s interests as well as the types of programs clients and participants are seeking. Hickman offers some food for thought, and I’ll be interested to see how the field evolves from here.