Ben Hall has been teaching Physical Education (PE) and Life Skills at LAS since 2014, following work at several schools in the U.K and Chile, where he observed the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in action. He’s developing the PE curriculum for the LAS middle school. This is a condensed edit of his interview; you can find a longer edit here.
Why do you use outdoor education in your PE classes?
I think it’s one of the key concepts that you must address to have a quality PE program. Outdoor Education teaches teamwork, sportsmanship, understanding others, and being a fully rounded person. Especially with the cohort of students that we have, we need to take them outside of their comfort zones. They need to learn that it’s okay to push boundaries, it’s okay to not get everything right the first time, it’s okay to help others. Outdoor education lends itself to developing the whole child as an individual and holistically.
Is Leysin the right place for this?
Here in Leysin we’re so lucky to have one of the greatest environments that outdoor education can lend itself to. I think that’s where the Alpine Club is very successful. Most of our students come from cities and now they live here in the mountains. It’s so alien to them, such a foreign idea. When they come here they don’t know how to enjoy themselves in the great outdoors. It’s hard because they don’t have outdoor experience. So the links between the physical education program and the Alpine Club will build a stronger community as a whole.
Will such benefits apply to their future, even after they move back to a city?
Absolutely. There is a general idea that PE programs emphasize press ups and running the 100 meters. That’s far from what a good PE program should be. In my experience, good PE develops the whole person. Children are put under pressure that requires them to make decisions, to choose the right tool at the right time. It’s about a process of evaluating what works and what doesn’t. Surely this is what leads to success in industry, in teaching, in life.
Last year’s PE class was explicitly called “life skills.”
I think we forget that while these children may be good in English as their second language, this is HARD on them. It’s really tiring. Sometimes it’s important to just have a break from sitting down and learning. That’s one of the concepts that we’re taking into the middle school. For our younger students it will be good to get them out of their seats. We need to get them moving to develop motor skills, to develop their physical literacy, which will hopefully enable them to play, to ski, to provide the students with skills that enable them to take part in activities when they are adult that lead to a healthy individual in the long term.
How far along are you in developing your curriculum for PE?
We haven’t got a finished program yet, but we’re well underway. It’s becoming more structured, not in the sense of the lessons–I like lessons to be flowing rather than too structured–but it’s developing a nice balance. One can clearly see the learning outcomes.
How does the International Award fit in?
I’m very keen for all of our grade 8 and 9 students to take part in the International Award. As someone who teaches life skills and is trying to take a holistic approach to the child, I think outdoor education empowers our students to take a more gentle approach to their surroundings, a more considerate approach, a more humanistic approach. It will also allow them to access more and more opportunities right here on our doorstep.
(AI – interview Ben Hall 151126 – short edit 1 (620 words))