These are my notes from Brian Dufresne’s learning walk presentation, “Adventure Based Learning,” at the 14th Annual August Institute, “Technology Runs Through It” conference at the University of Montana in Missoula. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Going to share some lessons learned, taking kids backpacking for the past several years
– I’ve taught for 14 years, coached, student council advisor, etc.
– I love teaching kids, I love our state
– I’ve taken 7th graders on these trips for the past 7 years

Good solution to stress: taking a trip for adventure-based learning

I have learned to NOT let students bring their own dogs
– now my dog is the only one that gets to go
– even with practice we always have kids with lots falling out of their backpacks, off their shoulders

There is a lot of student repoire which is built in these trips

Why should I do an adventure trip for the kids?
– finally be able to answer the question: When am I ever going to use this?
– motivates students to learn and perform
– sharing a passion has power to improve your students quality of life
– improves classroom and school climate
– improves student / teacher and parent / teacher rapport
– good community PR
– it’s fun!

In the 7 years I’ve done this, I’ve received more thanks from parents and kids than anything else I’ve done
– stories of the trip get passed around among the generations

– I don’t have a graph of test score improvements
– I do have lots of great stories testifying to the impact of this

Climate within my class started to change, especially as it related to the trip

I promised the school board after this trip was approved, I promised to share with the school board the impact of the trip
– this had a big impact with kids who weren’t bought into the trip

Favorite story: Andrew’s moment in the sun (future valedictorian)
– applying his presentation knowledge about heat exhaustion on the trip

Another story: Austin who was not interested in class / school
– he loved fishing
– he worked his tail off to go on the trip
– he ended up helping other kids on the trip, showing them how to fish, building the campfire
– he dropped out at age 16, it may not have changed his life, but it made a connection and we still talk about the trip when I see him in the community

Other kids ask me to borrow backpacks
– happy parents can be your best ally
– can make things a lot easier

Technology portion of the trip

This will all be on the CSPD we bite

Key components
– 3 to 5 letters to parents
– outline the trip
– kids are required to pass every assignment to go on the trip
– communicate early and often
– gear list in 2nd letter
– 3rd letter is final details

Kids often don’t buy into the idea school will get them anything
– kids who don’t see the connection for their learning
– also has immediate consequences for failure
– kids need to recognize how to set goals and work hard
– hardest thing I do each year is talk to the kids and parents who don’t’ get to go

Technology aspect of this project
– we used Google Docs this year
– start with a mini-research project
– have students research two topics and jot down two interesting facts
– others have to respond in a different color to others, then the doc is shared back with me
– as soon as the students start collaborating and interacting, the dynamics in the classroom change

Research project is main aspect
– kids brainstorm what we might need for the trip
– can use Linoit or Google Docs

We write business letters asking for funding for the trip
– in my letter I explain we are really just looking for $5
– kids getting a response

We now write to DSEF (Darby School Excellence Funds)
– kids see writing as power
– rough and final drafts for those letters

Research presentations
– we used Google Presentations this year
– let students work at this at home, PPT not required
– 1 video from an expert was required in their presentation
– next year I’ll also require them to include a video they film

We do thank you letters to the business
– personal touch
– what did you get out of the trip
– what’s neat about all their assignments: they have immediate value to the kids (receiving money, seeing the impact of their presentation applied on the trip, etc)

bdufresne [at]

– great for co-curriculuar collaborations, get the PE teacher involved!

You can take almost anything that is a passion for you and tie it to the curriculum
– it doesn’t have to be backpacking, but that’s my passion
– any adventure can apply!
– large or small, your students will appreciate them all

Research is the easiest means to apply any trip to your curriculum; however, as a co-curricular unit you can really run wild and share the workload
– take 2 minutes and think of a passion you have and how you might be able to apply it to your classroom

This really comes down to authentic learning


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