The Wilderness: Effective Classroom for Authentic Learning

Though I love the classroom and the magic of it, I also greatly enjoy time out in the woods – there is just something about it that clears my thinking and allows me to de-clutter my life and see things from new and fresh perspectives. We all need that at times…

WILD 2013 Group Trip

This past week allowed such an occasion. I was able to join up with my buds from Pilgrimage Ministries for their annual W.I.L.D. trip – Wilderness Institute for Leadership Development. I love their slogan: “We grow leaders.”

A week that combines backpacking, canoeing, and leadership into one week? Sign me up! Our week of festivities landed us in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, a park roughly the size of Rhode Island. Now that is manly. And from a pedagogy standpoint, a great teaching and learning environment. It is a wonderfully effective classroom.

Though a rough week of weather, getting rained on many a day, pelted in the face by wind and raindrops, it was a life-changing week. The premise of Pilgrimage is that the wilderness is a wonderful classroom for learning and it forces one to grow and be changed. I love one of their tag lines: “W.I.L.D. grows leaders from the inside out… teaching them to leverage their own aggressive learning process into opportunities to impact the world around them by investing in others, with or without a traditional role.”

This week was effective in that it gave me more tools for my teaching tool belt: the Learning Cycle, Ministry Cycle, Shepherding Cycle, and Transformation Cycle. And maybe these can be fodder for future posts. Most importantly, this past week forced me to look at areas of my own life in both work and marriage and come to conclusions about what God really wants out of my life. That is the true freedom I desire – freedom from myself to serve and live out the Gospel each day.

I want to thank my group that I was able to lead over the week: Mike, Chris, Jeff, Leon, Josh, “Dutch,” and Dave. These guys were godly, thought-provoking, and full of humor (another thing I needed this week). It was amazing the friendships forged in one week through hours in a canoe, portaging over trails, eating mac and cheese in the rain, and sleeping together in damp tents. I wouldn’t trade it.

And a big thanks to Ben Wilhite for all his organizing of the trip logistics as well as Dennis Wilhite and Dwight Peterson for their teaching – love these guys and their passion. These are guys that speak truth into my life and sharpen me.

I must say it was refreshing not having my cell phone or laptop but it was good getting back to my family and civilization. And it will be good to see the overflow of last week into my growth in the days and weeks ahead. Learning is an amazing phenomenon and I love it when it impacts me. Let’s carry that into our classrooms for the fall.


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