24 hours in the life of a professional outdoor educator
4.30am – Out of bed in Melbourne, quick breakfast on the go, toss bags into the car and drive a couple of hours to the starting point. Stop and snap a few stunning sunrise photos.
6.30am – Arrive at Base and meet Course Coordinator (CC) to discuss the plan for the morning. I am the Assistant Course Coordinator (ACC) for the program. There are two staging areas where the students start and finish. I’ll be at one, the CC will be at the other.
7 am Greet group leaders and shed staff checking the gear already prepped and packed into vehicles and trailers the day before.
7.15am Staff briefing, expectations, educational outcomes, medicals, changes to the outline, weather conditions, group changes, school staff changes.
7.30am Group leaders load gear, finishing vehicle checks and collect last minute items such as GPS and radios. One GL is in charge of ensuring all eskies and food tubs are in the right vehicles/trailers including any special dietary requirements.
Problem Solve: Group Leader unwell – replacement to be found by 9 am (done)
7.45am Two new Group Leaders, their first time in a professional capacity leading a group of students. Chat to them about their expectations, any concerns, explain in detail the client and their needs and what it’s like to lead a group of 12 – 13 yo girls and boys. They are itching to meet their group full of enthusiasm and energy. Go get em guys.
Problem Solve: Maps aren’t where they are supposed to be – colleague on another program finds them for us. (done)
8 am. CC gives a final detailed explanation to Group Leaders of the experience of the group and some tips on setting up the program for success. Final numbers relayed from school are sent through so we know who will be attending.
Problem Solve: One of the lights doesn’t work on the trailer. Shed staff fix immediately.
8.30am After final packing, checking, briefing – all staff jump into vehicles and shuttle trailers to their appropriate venues. Not enough seats for everyone, so after dropping the trailer at one venue, ACC returns to base and picks up remaining staff.
9 am Five groups at one staging area, five groups at another. Key is to make sure everyone and their belongings end up at the right venue. In the meantime, Group Leaders unload all the packs, stoves, woks, spaceships, sleeping mats, tents. raincoats, tarps, groovers, pipes and a multitude of water drums, eskies and food tubs.
9.30am All gear is laid out by Group Leaders for their incoming group so they can easily see what they each have to use, collect and carry.
Problem Solve: Severe Weather Warning advised by All Hours Contact. CC liaise with venue manager about consolidating groups from five camps into two which are compliant in case of a SWW. (done)
10 am Some staff choof off to the bakery for some lunch and to refill their water bottles before the group arrives.
10.40 am Staff get to know each other as they aren’t all familiar. Great bonding time and shared adventures with groups. This is often where the more experienced staff share their strategies with groups.
11.30 am Buses arrive at both venues on time which are around 10kms apart. Buses load of student soft bags.
11.35 am Group Leaders meet their students and the staff member and vice versa. Morning tea/lunch begins as the Group Leader introduces themselves and talk about the program and what they’ll be doing.
12.10 pm Group Leader, Staff Member and students start to unpack their soft packs and pack their gear into rucksacks ensuring it’s all waterproofed. Anything the GL or students decides isn’t required is left in their soft bag.
Problem Solve: A student left their soft bag on another bus which is at the other venue. Radio CC, identify bag and make arrangements for it to get to the student. (done)
12.20 pm Games, fun activities and quiz time to break the ice so everyone knows who each other is.
Problem Solve: Student has forgotten lunch. GL speaks to the group and he is offered a sandwich, fruit and drink to share from their own lunches. (done)
12.30 pm Soft bags are put into the trailer in a specific order to make things easier when they depart in a few days time.
12.45 pm ACC shuttles, eskies with fruit and tubs with food, tents, tarps and grooves (toilets) to the two campsites and covers them in case of rain. (car full)
1 pm Group Leaders ask for a navigating leader for the afternoon. All groups depart from the staging areas and begin their walk which is no more than 5kms.
1.15pm ACC shuttles tents and water drums to the two campsites and covers them in case of rain. (car full)
1.30pm Group has used more water than expected (hot day), so resupply and take to each campsite. (Gotta tell students not to bring water bottles with small openings as it wastes so much water when pouring from the drum).
2 pm Shuttle packs to campsites for students who aren’t able to carry theirs. (car full)
2.45pm See a group walking, stop the vehicle to let them pass. Don’t like to drive by a group – it can be demoralising for them. Notice student has blood on her knee. Pull over and check. Group Leader who is at the rear of the group arrives and treats the student. We are both agreed that she may need medical attention. The student comes with me to our main base where I ask her to rest, hydrate and the CC will attend to her first aid needs shortly.
3 pm CC arrives and has student wash her knee under the shower and clean it up. Upon inspection, needs to be done again because of the grit. Finally clean, CC is able to dry and treat wound appropriately. The student is easy going and wants to join her group. Inform All Hours Contact of injury. Student apologies consistently for being such a bother (how sweet).
3.30pm ACC grabs spare batteries for radios and an extra GPS for Group Leaders and distributes them throughout the afternoon.
4 pm ACC and student see an echidna along the road and stop to soak up the joys of being outdoors.
6 pm CC has skeds with group informing of weather for the next 24 hours, fire rating and any requests from their group. A number of students home sick. School staff manager their pastoral care.
Problem Solve: CC manages a student with an undisclosed medical condition. Liaise with All Hours Contact to clarify and act accordingly.
7 pm ACC arrives at her accommodation with a colleague and has dinner.
9 pm CC advised to rendezvous with him at the local Hospital. He has two students with him that require attention.
9.10pm CC does a handover and returns to the field as he doesn’t have good radio reception at the Hospital.
9.10pm – 10.30pm ACC stays with students while treated by a nurse. ACC advises CC that one student is able to return to the group and he will come and collect him.
Problem Solve: One student needs to return home. CC liaise with All Hours Contact. Parent breaches protocol and calls Hospital direct. Fortunately, the nurse attending the student answers the phone. Nurse advises student needs to go home. I then liaise directly with the parent about meeting him halfway for a pickup. (done)
10.45pm All Hours Contact ask me to pause as the parents are separated and she has to ensure both parents are aware of the medical condition and the arrangements made. Good result within five minutes.
11 pm – Midnight ACC rendezvous with the parent in Healesville and reaffirms students condition.
1 am – ACC arrives back at colleagues home avoiding two kangaroos, one deer, three foxes, one dead wombat in the middle of the road (stop and check pouch, baby wombat dead, drag off-road).
2 am ACC goes over the next day’s activities, charges phone, radio and texts All Hours Contact and CC finalising the day’s events.
2.15am ACC falls asleep. Sigh.
Next day 7 am – It begins all again……
This is a fairly standard day in the outdoors with 175 students, staff and group leaders bushwalking in a well-used area with a CC and ACC managing the logistics that pop up continually. The CC will have done far more than myself during the day including topping up dietary food that wasn’t disclosed on the medical form, student scared of using a hole to poop in and one student doesn’t know how to cut vegetables and is having a tanty. School staff manage pastoral care. We manage the rest.
Some may see it as disorganised – we see it as problem-solving issues that constantly arise that are often out of our control.
- Incomplete medical information
- Environmental factors
- Staff (OEG and School)
- Attitude and resilience of the group
That’s what we do. That’s what we are trained to do. That’s why we are great at our jobs. Here is the opportunity for students to disconnect with technology and reconnect with themselves, others and the outdoors.
We have a small window of opportunity to make a difference in a student’s life and show them the power within themselves, how great they can be. It’s not always easy but when it works – it’s gold!
Not it’s your turn. What have your experiences working as a professional educator been like?
Leave a comment below.