This week in response to the covid-19 pandemic, The Outdoor Academy will begin delivering our program online. For a school built on the principle of experiential learning in a small community setting in the outdoors, this presents us with a tremendous challenge. But with challenge comes opportunity.

Before coming to The Outdoor Academy, I spent many years working for the North Carolina Bound School. It was there that I learned about the educational philosophies of Kurt Hahn. Hahn started a progressive school in Germany before having to flee the Nazis to escape persecution for being Jewish. Instead of bemoaning his circumstances, Hahn moved forward, starting the Gordonstoun school in Scotland. He later co-founded Outward Bound as a response to World War II and the need to teach young people to deal with adversity and to realize that they were far more capable than they could have imagined.

Today we utilize many of the ideals of Hahn and Outward Bound here at The Outdoor Academy. Kurt Hahn famously said:

“Your disability is your opportunity.”
— Kurt Hahn

This is a motto I always come back to during difficult times. I also use this quote to remind myself that my perceived shortcomings contain lessons waiting to be learned.

I felt discouraged when I first heard the news that students would not be returning to campus as planned. But after a week of video conferencing with faculty and students scattered all around the country, I am energized and excited by what lies ahead for Semester 50.

Our faculty are some of the most creative and talented educators I have ever met. I know that they will continue to deliver an engaging educational experience for our students. Getting silly and putting on costumes with students while on a video chat also reminded me that we can still laugh and have fun as a community even though we are spread far and wide.

None of us know what the next few weeks and months are going to look like. But we do have a choice in how we respond. We can cower in fear and discouragement at the challenges we face, or we can choose a different path. This path is one of acceptance. Acceptance that within every obstacle, there is the opportunity to learn and to grow.

By John Gray