by Kathlynn Zhang
*Photo was taken before COVID-19
Almost every Singaporean knows Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) for the MOE-OBS Challenge (MOC) Programme, which seeks to develop ruggedness, resilience, and build cohesion amongst youths. But are you familiar with some of OBS's other courses?
One example would be the 4-day Physical Education and Sports Science (PESS) Outdoor Educator Programme in OBS, where the participants are the trainee-teachers from the National Institute of Education (NIE). Though not as well-known as the MOC programme, this programme is one of the longest running programmes in OBS! This programme provides trainee-teachers the opportunity to apply their newly acquired skills in a unique setting and to subsequently observe how theories that they have learnt are applied in the outdoors.
The biggest difference is that the PESS Outdoor Educator Programme is a collaborative effort between three organisations - OBS, PESS, and the Physical, Sports & Outdoor Education Branch (PSOEB) under the Ministry of Education (MOE). This means that the programme is reviewed by all 3 organisations, to ensure the entire experience would be meaningful, impactful and beneficial for the trainee-teachers.
*Photo was taken before COVID-19
Another key feature of the PESS programme is that participants are made to do more reflective thinking. Throughout the programme, trainee-teachers are expected to wear the hat of both the participant and that of a teacher, in order to appreciate different perspectives. The focus on reflection rather than action allows the trainee-teachers to prioritise and understand the learning objectives and hence maximise the overall learning experience.
Only senior Instructors with sufficient field experience from conducting the MOC programmes are selected to conduct this programme. Instructors were also required to go through a workshop conducted by PSOEB, to prepare themselves for the programme. The workshop covered MOE’s Outdoor Education Framework, as well as the design considerations used by the teachers when they planned outdoor education school cohort camps. This gave the Instructors the background information to help contextualise their responses to some of the trainee-teachers’ questions.
Instructors had to prepare their lesson plans before the programme started, to ensure that they could personally understand the considerations that needed to be factored in, while designing the programme. With the lesson plans, Instructors were also better able to understand the programme flow and the logic behind each of the planned activities better. This helped Instructors plan ahead on how to better conduct the activity and achieve its learning objective.
The pandemic disrupted many things ever since it came to play, and the PESS programme is, unfortunately, one of them. Originally planned for April last year, this was deferred to November instead as many Safe Management Measures (SMMs) had to be adopted in the resumption of the programme. With the SMMs in place, there was a need to keep groups (called ‘Watches’ in OBS) separated as much as possible.
With the need to separate the watches, the Instructors involved had to make amendments to their programme schedules. While they initially struggled to adapt to the new normal, they overcame the odds by keeping each other informed of the constantly evolving SMMs. This constant communication enabled a meaningful experience for all involved. The programme outcomes were successfully delivered despite the changing needs, and the separation of watches actually led to deeper conversations within each watch.
The PESS programme has evolved with different lesson plans over the years and has constantly improved to meet the needs of clients – in this case the trainee-teachers who will be qualified to be a PE teacher upon graduation from NIE.
The outdoors is a great classroom where resilience comes to life when undergoing different activities and expeditions. We believe that individuals would be inspired and eventually step forth to make a difference in the community after going through an OBS programme.
The PESS programme and MOC are just a portion of what OBS has to offer! Click here, to find out more about the programmes conducted by OBS.