Respecting the Earth through Experiential Learning and Adventure
by Jackie Taylor
When I was young, there was no internet and no social media. ‘Social media’ meant actually meeting up with your friends in the light British evenings or summer holidays to build a tree house, cycle around the neighborhood, or hang out under a street lamp together. Times have changed, and the majority of young people now prefer to chat with friends online rather than meet in person. There is also growing concern among parents about letting children run wild in the streets, and forest areas around their homes.
While in Nepal a large number of children do live in rural areas, those living in cities such as Kathmandu are often just as connected to their devices as kids in the West. Also, there are less open spaces and parks in Kathmandu for them to roam around in.
So, adventurer Rewat Bir Tuladhar, along with his colleagues from Sacred Summits, has launched an experiential learning experience for school children aged 11 and above. This, ‘learning through reflection on doing’ outdoor experience is something completely new for the children. In general, in school they learn to repeat what they are taught, rather than reflecting on problems and trying to solve them themselves.
Taking into consideration that these are city kids, Tuladhar and Sacred Summits, building on experience as tour operators and an adventure tourism company, take children into the rural environment of Gorkha district, where they learn to camp, cook outside, hike, and undertake group activities. They also get to interact with a local school, seeing how village school life is first-hand. The students also get the opportunity to interact with a local school, experiencing what studying in a village school is like and meeting their peers. Combining these adventure activities with learning about nature, the organization also adds in an extra factor: focusing currently on the village of Ligligkot, the children are immersed in the culture and history of the area. Not many people know that Ligligkot played a pivotal role in the history of Nepal from the 14th to 18th century, with many battles taking place in this area.
Ligligkot is a hill in the western part of Gorkha that overlooks the Chepe and Marsyangdi Rivers. Today, the site contains the ruins of four forts, and the foundations of buildings, moats, defensive walls, and other structures. Around 200 years ago, Ligligkot was, arguably, the most important fort in Nepal. It’s not known exactly when Ligligkot was first settled, but it appears likely to have been during the Licchavi Period. Over the next few hundred years, Ligligkot saw the breakup of the Malla empire, the rule of Magars, Gurungs, and Ghales, and the arrival of Rajputs from Rajasthan, who were escaping the Muslim invaders. In fact, Rajput Kulmandan Khan conquered the Ghale kingdom of Kaski, changed his family name to Shah, and was the first of many Shah kings to come. Wars raged over and around Ligligkot until the reign of Prithvi Narayan Shah (1723 to 1775), who we all know as the unifier of Nepal.
So, with this historical background and the backdrop of the Annapurna, Manaslu, and Langtang ranges, the children on these trips are immersed in their past, while being 100% in the present, and building a solid basis for their future. How I wish I could join them!
I wondered about feedback from the children, teachers, and parents so far, and was told that the children find it hard to adjust the first day (it’s a 4- to 5-day trip) because of the newness of it all, but by day two they start really having fun and volunteering to do chores and activities. Some schools have already added this trip to their school calendar as a mandatory program. Thinking about safety, I was reassured that trained Sherpas are part of the team looking after the children on hikes and in the campsite, and that all equipment and gear used are of the highest standard.
To sum up, Tuladhar tells me, “I’ve been part of several experiential learning activities in India, and know it’s an excellent opportunity for children here to learn something of their history other than in dull text books, to learn about village life, and to enjoy nature. And it is true that, unless we, as humans, learn about the culture and lives of others and learn to appreciate nature, we cannot truly respect the Earth, preserving it for our future children.”