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Experiential education – focused on creating a concrete experience that helps students better understand and retain information - is steadily gaining recognition as a highly effective, if not better, learning method than classroom lectures and other traditional teaching techniques.
For young learners, these experiences are aimed at being fun, stimulating and adventure-filled to encourage direct nvolvement.
In response. more international and local schools are expanding time allocated to community service, moral and civic education, and other activities classified under “Other Learning Experiences” or their “Week Without Walls” programmes.
Dragonfly Outdoors, established in 2002, has been one of the premier providers of many suchcourses in Asia. It currently serves over 40 international schools and faculties. More than 4,800 students joined its diversified programmes in 2010 alone. Courses are conducted at sites across Hong Kong, mainland China and Malaysia.
The programmes cover a wide array of outdoor activities, including sea kayaking, snorkelling, surfing, swimming, raft building, hiking, camping, orienteering, abseiling, rock climbing, biking and forest studies. At residential camps, students take part in physical exercises such as archery, as well as leadership training, teambuilding activities, and practical skills training.
Dragonfly was one of the first groups to offer programmes in Hong Kong’s rural enclaves in Sai Kung, which it says are underutilised.
“Hong Kong [is] 70 per cent green space and 40 per cent official country park,” said Susan Lee, Dragonfly’s community service projects manager. “I don’t think a lot of people know that.”
Programmes are led by an international staff from diverse backgrounds with professional credentials, extensive outdoor work experience and familiarity with local conditions and culture.
Dragonfly’s non-profit division, Service Adventures, oversees farm-based service programmes, projects for the elderly and disabled, and development programmes for disadvantaged youth in urban areas. It also facilitates social responsibility efforts by corporations and firms. Underprivileged students can join day or multi-day programmes free thanks to corporate sponsors, some of whose employees can join activities and interact with students.
This giving-back-to-the-community aspect of Dragonfly’s outdoor adventure courses makes the learning experience particularly rewarding. Participants acquire heightened compassion and a better understanding of, and greater interest in, community service.
Hong Kong Hakka
Residential courses for primary and secondary students in a 200-year-old Hakka village in Sai Kung Country Park. Activities include orienteering and map reading, kayaking, environmental learning and investigation, raft building, photography, snorkeling, swimming, and a gorge hike, July 2-August 3, five-day course, HK$3,700.
This includes island-hopping and snorkelling, offshore overnight beach camping, jungle trekking, wetlands and wildlife viewing, and a village home stay with community-based activities. July 28-Aug 2, six day course, HK$6,400 with approximately HKD$3,500 for flight costs to be confirmed at the time of booking.
Highlights include a Nadaam rural festival, horseback trekking and staying in a traditional dwelling.
The trip also includes five days’ of community service projects in Ulaanbaatar and three days of similar activities in Arkanhai province. Jul 2-22, 20 days, HK$16,800 (excluding flight costs).
Further details and courses: