Outdoor Pursuits: Risk Benefit

Before we venture off on any of our camp trips, as per protocol, we always have to send home a parental consent form. The bottom of the form always leaves a space for parent comments. A parent of a former student, who has since graduated from Vimy Ridge Academy, used to always leave me messages like “This trip sounds scary” or “ I am not sure this trip is a good idea”. These comments often made me re-consider the Risk Benefit of our camp trips.

Every activity we do from driving to school or walking across the street to rock climbing or white water rafting has some element of risk. My job as an educator of outdoor physical education is to assess the Risk Benefit and decide whether the activity we are looking to pursue has benefits that are actually worth the risk. When I go to make this assessment, there are many components that I take into consideration. Firstly, I look at the group that I am taking and determine whether the activity is age appropriate and whether the group has the necessary skills to complete the activity in a safe manner. Secondly, I consider what possible hazards may be involved. Then after that, I focus on what precautions can be put in place to minimize any risk of injury. Finally, I then look at how the students will benefit from participating in the activity. If I am satisfied that the benefits will out weigh the risks then I go ahead and book the activity. 

Most recently, we were on a camp trip in the Big Horn Valley where I took a group of High School students to go rock climbing and rappelling. There were obvious risks involved these activities, but by following the Risk Benefit Assessment model I was able to determine that these activities were suitable for the group I was taking. We had a very successful trip and many of the students were able to achieve physical goals that pushed them to their limits both mentally and physically. Regardless of the students abilities and experience, everyone walked away from those activities with an increase in confidence and with memories that they will have forever.

So my recommendation is that you don’t shy away from intimidating outdoor activities, but determine the Risk Benefit. If you have the ability and confidence to take on an exciting activity then go for it. If you are unsure of your abilities and uncertain if the risks are worth it, then perhaps you should reconsider or enlist the help of a professional who can help minimize the risks. In the end, what really matters is that you just get outside and enjoy the outdoors.

Rob Schmidt

Outdoor Pursuits Program Director