For those of you who are wanderlust, teaching ESL learners has long been a viable way to see and experience the world. But teaching in a classroom environment isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Some people loathe the mundane aspects of being a classroom or online teacher: preparing lesson plans, teaching grammar and pronunciation, reviewing and grading essays and tests – day in, day out – the list could go on.
If you are seeking different experiences and genuine adventures, you should explore the field of outdoor education. In this post, I’ll explain what this is, what it takes to become an outdoor education instructor abroad, and I’ll introduce one of the most renowned global organizations in the field.
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- What is Outdoor Education?
- Where to Find Outdoor Instructor Jobs Abroad
- The Requirements to Become an Outdoor Educator
- Meet Steffen: An Outdoor Education Enthusiast Living Abroad
- Getting to Know the JUMP! Foundation
- JUMP! Programs
- Career Opportunities with JUMP!
- Qualifications to Work with JUMP!
- How to Apply for an Outdoor Educator Job
What is Outdoor Education?
Here is a description from Wikipedia:
Outdoor education is often referred to as synonymous with outdoor learning, outdoor school, forest schools and wilderness education. Outdoor education often uses or draws upon related elements and/or informs related areas. The hallmark of outdoor education is its focus on the “outdoor” side of this education; whereas adventure education would focus on the adventure side and environmental education would focus on environmental. Expeditionary education involves expeditions into wilderness “where man is but a visitor.” All of these activities typically involve experiential education.Wikipedia
If you have a penchant for the outdoors and wilderness, then outdoor education jobs abroad might be the perfect alternative to teaching English. Many people who have worked as outdoor educators declare that the experience was life-changing, and the friendships made have become rich, purposeful relationships.
Where to Find Outdoor Instructor Jobs Abroad
Outdoor Education jobs abroad will often be available in international schools and outdoor education providers that cater to them. Outdoor Education is not cheap. Camping trips, wilderness excursions, and extensive travel for both educators and participants means Outdoor Education can indeed be expensive and thus out of reach for the typical public school.
Consequently, most outdoor education jobs abroad deal with engaging international school students, since international schools are equipped with both the financial means and willingness to integrate outdoor education into their curriculum.
Not all programs happen in the wilderness. There are plenty of programs that take place in school gymnasiums and playgrounds, as well as programs where students get involved in local community work, and often there are programs offering a mixture of these experiences.
Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), for example, has its own Outdoor Education Department. WAB is one of the most prestigious international schools in China. It is evident that WAB views Outdoor Education as critical to its students’ learning experience. Here is what WAB says on its website:
In the wild, we challenge students to challenge themselves, and think and reflect on how they interact with the environment, heightening awareness of the global issues facing our planet. Our team structures programs unique to each grade level, gradually increasing in difficulty and steadily building independence. The goal is to meaningfully engage students, and to foster a love of nature and respect for our interconnectedness.Western Academy of Beijing
The Requirements to Become an Outdoor Educator
Before searching for Outdoor Education jobs abroad, it is important to know if this type of work is suited for you. Even if you are someone who loves the outdoors, that’s not enough. As you will often be dealing with adolescents and working in collaborative and culturally diverse environments, a positive mindset, team spirit, and cultural awareness are all crucial to making this a successful experience.
Because Outdoor Educators need to be prepared for emergencies in the outdoors, most Outdoor Education jobs abroad will require you to have completed a Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) certification course.
As well, there is often a lot of travel, and perhaps several days in the month when you will be away from home and cut off from the comforts of modern urban living. There may be times you will feel homesick, and times when relaxing for you means not being outdoors!
While Outdoor Education jobs abroad often attract people of all age ranges, they are likely to appeal most to people in their late 20s to mid-30s. Many people at this age range tend to be in a transitional phase in life before settling down or pursuing other goals and interests, and have very few commitments and dependents, if any.
Also read: Can you teach English abroad in your 30s or 40s?
Meet Steffen: An Outdoor Education Enthusiast Living Abroad
Steffen Lohrmann is a Dutch-American expat who has lived and worked in Asia for several years. In fact, Steffen grew up and went to school in Asia. Steffen’s father was an expat who worked primarily in Asia’s hospitality industry, so Steffen and his brother have been living the expat life from a young age.
Naturally, due to his father’s line of work, Steffen first found work in the hospitality industry. It wasn’t long after working in the corporate world, though, that Steffen realized his true calling as an outdoor educator. Steffen has been working as an outdoor educator since 2013, and has embraced it not merely as a career, but as a lifestyle choice.
Steffen took some time to connect with us and share his wealth of experience in Outdoor Education. In this interview, he talks about outdoor education jobs abroad, and how international schools and companies have recognized the value of incorporating it into their culture. He also talks about topics such as how much outdoor educators can make living abroad, what type of person is suitable for this field, and where this career choice can take you.
Because Steffen has been a long-time resident of China, he also shares his insight about how much ESL teachers can earn living in China.
(Steffen was in a remote area of Chiang Mai, Thailand, during the interview, so his internet connection dropped off towards the end.)
If you think Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning is something that resonates with you, the JUMP! Foundation should be at the top of your list.
Getting to Know the JUMP! Foundation
JUMP! Foundation is a leading provider of outdoor education and experiential learning programs, and it is a global leader in this field. JUMP! is also a social enterprise, in that it allocates a portion of its human, educational and financial resources towards leadership programs that target underserved communities around the world.
The organization’s community outreach is undoubtedly what makes it a life-altering experience for its employees, local NGOs it partners with, and the communities it serves.
JUMP! is all about equipping today’s youth with the skills needed to be leaders tomorrow. It designs and delivers a broad spectrum of impactful experiential education programs, and has, over several years, developed an extensive global network of partnerships in the field of education.
JUMP! Foundation was founded in 2006 to accomplish three goals:
- Inspire individuals through transformational experiences
- Empower individuals with skills and resources to create positive impact
- Engage individuals with local and global communities
JUMP! was started by its founders responding to what they saw as a missing piece in the puzzle of a person’s educational development.
Concepts such as global citizenship, leadership, engaging in local cultures, and developing creative solutions to challenges faced by local communities are some examples of how JUMP! has stepped into the arena of the traditional education model and helped evolve the model by integrating experiential learning.
Since many of these learning experiences happen outside the classroom space, students who participate in JUMP! programs learn through hands-on experience rather than simply learning concepts and theories alone.
Currently, JUMP! maintains offices in Bangkok, Beijing, and Canada, and has satellite offices in other locations around the world.
Watch the 30-minute interview with Erick Van Til, Program Director, and Shannon Fox, Manager of the Facilitator Network of the JUMP! Foundation.
The organization has on-site programs for educators, students and schools (JUMP! Schools), as well as off-site programs in various parts of the world (JUMP! Experiences). JUMP! also offers virtual programs (JUMP! Connected) to expand its reach and make its programs more accessible on a global scale.
JUMP! delivers its experiential learning programs mainly for youth who are enrolled in prestigious international schools, and works with these schools to bring the programs in-house as part of the school’s wider education mandate.
The purpose of these programs is to introduce learning opportunities through trips, nature excursions, community involvement, and engagement with local cultures.
As a social enterprise, JUMP! is also deeply committed to making its resources and programs accessible to youth from all backgrounds. It provides support to underserved communities across the globe through its Impact programs, which we will discuss a bit later.
Career Opportunities with JUMP!
JUMP! has opportunities to work as a full-time member of staff, as well as a contract program facilitator. Full-time job openings occur throughout the year, and it is thus a good idea to follow JUMP! and look out for openings as they are advertised.
Contract program facilitator opportunities are more fluid, meaning you could join JUMP! as a member of its global facilitator network, practically wherever you are located. Contract facilitators work on a per-project basis, so if you are looking for non-committal opportunities to work in outdoor education and experiential education, getting on board the JUMP! Facilitator team might be the right path for you.
Qualifications to Work with JUMP!
Teachers, especially those who have genuine educational backgrounds and experience working within international school environments, can do well working with an organization like JUMP!
Additionally, those who have a passion for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, trekking, or rock climbing might find themselves at home working with JUMP! If you have a Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, this would be an added bonus.
Anyone who has been involved with humanitarian assistance or relief efforts, such as UN peace corps, would be considered to be an asset to JUMP! in helping students learn these values and skill sets.
The team at JUMP! works in an extremely collaborative way, so being a team player is essential to making a career at JUMP! successful. People who are good problem-solvers, are good at presenting and speaking to large audiences, able to motivate and inspire participants in group activities, and have a high level of empathy.
How to Apply for an Outdoor Educator Job
JUMP! regularly posts job openings on its site, and you can also get in touch with the JUMP! by email or phone to find out what’s down the pipeline.
Also read: The best career opportunities after quitting teaching English abroad.