Photo Courtesy: Felipe Gutierrez
“UWC and Outdoor Education share a long and rich history in the work of Kurt Hahn, who emphasized the role of outdoor adventure in his Ten Principles of Expeditionary Learning. An expedition is a microcosm of our world, in that many of the important questions of our age – climate change, poverty, conflict – are in fact “downstream” issues stemming from basic deficits in compassion, leadership and stewardship. These deficits are brought to light under the especially stark conditions of an expedition, and Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound and UWC share a common ancestry and mission in addressing them. The idea is more ably illustrated in the words of pioneering Outward Bound educator Willi Unsoeld: “Seek ye first the kingdom of nature, that the kingdom of man might be realized.”
The Outdoor Education program at UWC Mahindra College started formally in 2012 and emphasizes environmental stewardship, emergent leadership, and cross-cultural collaboration in authentically challenging contexts. Students work towards mastering disciplines such as Kayaking, Biking, and Expedition Leadership; they prevent and fight bushfires that threaten the campus; they learn first aid, risk management and expedition logistics; and they guide others in Outdoor and Adventure service projects. The Kriya Empowerment Initiative, for example, involves MUWCI students as facilitators for young women from disadvantaged rural backgrounds who learn to swim, bike, kayak and run the obstacle course on campus, in the process overcoming many cultural or self-imposed limitations.
In expeditions from the Himalaya to the canyons of Karnataka, students grapple with topics such as how humans live and impact these environments; the conflicts, failures and successes of policy; and the impact of politics and business on development and sustainability projects. Learning takes place experientially, trekking through the mountains or rappelling down the waterfalls, through guided reflection and the study of academic content outside the classroom. Outdoor environments are ideal frameworks for compelling acts of the whole person that require mastery, teamwork, and service, and that inspire young people to sustain courageous inquiry. A prolonged project such as an expedition can be a profoundly moving experience that leads to inspiration, joy and commitment to an environmental ethic.
Students take ownership of the logistics and delivery of the program, building practical maintenance and management skills. They play leading roles in the college’s Fire and First Aid services. They co-lead and facilitate 30 day Himalayan expeditions that summit at over 6100m. They learn to work together, master themselves and the skills required to manage risks intelligently.
The OE Stream is led by Arvin Singh Dang and supported by six other faculty: Marija Uzunova (PBD and PNC), Kaushiki Dunusinghe (Mathematics), Rita Fuchs (Triveni, Academic intern), Ingrid Haagmans (Head of Student Life), Pelham Lindfield Roberts (Head of College), and Benjamin Reid Howells (Triveni and PNC).”
About Arvin Dang – Teacher of Economics/Head of the Outdoor and Adventure Stream
Arvin is a graduate of UWC SEA and grew up in Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK, yet remains mysteriously a citizen of India. After graduating from UWC he studied Economics and Management at Oxford University and worked as a hedge fund analyst in London and Munich. He found himself in India for the first time in 2008; the year he also first ventured into the Himalayas. Diverse experiences ensued, from climbing hills big and small, to promoting nightclubs using demographic profiling, and then to commercializing electric auto rickshaws, before finally taking up residence at Woodstock School, Mussoorie. He has worked with young adults for five years, as a teacher, residence parent and outdoor educator. He is passionate about adventure guiding; economics, particularly sustainability and market failure; and about Expeditionary Learning. He joined UWC Mahindra College in 2011.