Building The Banks

The Connection, February 27, 2024

SMS outdoor and global program faculty engaged in a dynamic and interactive professional development opportunity aimed at enhancing their ability to create impactful learning experiences for students. The day began like most PD days, with lots of coffee, pastries, and high-energy chatter from friends returning from break. Simon Hart, our facilitator from Where There Be Dragons, kicked off the programming with a tone-setting meditation followed by a series of unique intentional relationship-building exercises. Faculty members shared their intentions for the day, fostering a sense of collective purpose and camaraderie. Where There Be Dragons is an internationally recognized travel abroad program with over 500,000 student days in the field since its founding. Dragons states in their teacher toolkit that, “only by experiencing difference and adversity can we truly know ourselves” and this mindset guides their programming but also their risk management philosophy while traveling. 

The morning sessions delved into key aspects of experiential education, learning and practicing new tools for student engagement and growth in our outdoor and global programs. Hart explained the need for both setting group boundaries and embracing risk, not avoiding it. Faculty discussed container-building methods that emphasized the importance of establishing clear boundaries while also creating support structures within student groups. They also looked at ways of maintaining student buy-in or accountability among learners. Hart emphasized the necessity of group norms by saying, “if you build strong banks, the river flows together; if the river banks are weak, the water will end up going many ways.” Faculty took away from these sessions with a variety of methods for creating group norms that were applicable for all, from young students on their first overnight to our experienced upper school travelers. Michael Lackey, Director of Outdoor and Global Programs said, “the day’s work was centered around student success, ensuring that every aspect of SMS’s experiential programs is designed to facilitate meaningful learning experiences, especially when students are moving out of their comfort zones.”

The second part of the work with Hart was the exploration of risk as a catalyst for student growth. Faculty members delved into proactive risk management by understanding the role of objective and subjective elements that they may encounter, as well as the actual versus perceived risks. The SMS faculty and staff spend a large amount of time outside of the physical classroom with students, and spending a day furthering their skills of risk assessment, crisis management, and boundary setting helps faculty to continue to create structured yet challenging learning opportunities. Overall, the day was a testament to Steamboat Mountain School’s commitment to providing innovative and impactful educational experiences for its students.

Now accepting applications for the 24-25 school year!

Learn more!