Research Says Courage Determines Children's Success And Happiness. Her...

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Research Says Courage Determines Children's Success And Happiness. Here's How Trekking Helps

Category Experiential Learning, Schools

By Janusa Sangma

2023-10-25

What is courage? Is it dressed in tights and a cape? Is it always bold and big? Does courage sound like a thousand drums beating or does it also rise through the noise gently, like a soulful violin?

When children trek, they are in for more than just fun. They come back learning some of life’s most profound lessons on the trail. Lessons on courage are among them.

The design of our Experiential Learning treks for children encourages risk-taking. Through experiencing and overcoming adversity, children become more confident. We've seen them make better choices for themselves and the environment.

Driving each of these choices is courage – a trait in children we don’t celebrate enough.

We recently had the pleasure of leading a trek for the wonderful students of NEXT School, Mumbai to Kuari Pass.

Many students began the trek with fear, doubt, and anxiety.  Over their four-day journey, the students took courage to the next level. 

“When we give children the room to explore and take responsibility without getting in their way, they achieve things beautifully,” shared Shwetha Krish, the Indiahikes trek leader who facilitated the experience for the students.  

Moments of calm for students from NEXT School | Photo credits: Shwetha Krish

But being brave isn’t always what we think it looks like. The children from NEXT School demonstrated how courage shows up in different ways during a trek.

The courage to be away from home

Arunima had joined the trek feeling anxious and doubtful about her own abilities. Connecting with nature helped her realise how independent she could be, especially when her parents weren’t around. She said the trek helped her feel more confident.

The courage to be vulnerable

When the team first met Neal, it was clear that he preferred doing his own thing. He was confident and independent, but not always mindful about his actions and behaviours. As the days went by, Neal grew more contemplative - particularly during nature experiences facilitated by the Indiahikes team. It took courage for someone as self-assured as Neal to walk up to us and say how he felt “heard” for the first time.

Specially designed nature experiences are an integral part of our treks for children | Photo credits: Shwetha Krish

The courage to achieve something difficult

The children trekked to Kuari Pass in which the highest altitude is 12516 ft. As part of our program design, children are encouraged to carry their own backpacks since offloading has harmful environmental and social impacts. A student named Kabir overcame this challenge despite it being tough for him. His spirit never faltered. He insisted on carrying his own backpack even when the team offered to help.

The courage to think and behave differently

Shauraya was intensely homesick. Everything was alien for her on the trek – the people, the environment, how each day would start and end. All these things combined frequently made her panic on the trek. We saw a remarkable shift in her thinking by day 2. In two days, Shauraya found the courage to get out of her own head. She was determined and made it happily to the summit.

The courage to ask for help

What was especially heartwarming? Children refused to conform to traditional roles. One expects older children to take care of the younger lot, and this group did it happily. But when Vivaan offered to help his seniors on the trek, they gladly took it. It’s never easy to admit you need help.

The courage to try in the first place

We saw many students struggling on the trek. They were strong physically but their emotional and mental strength would routinely crumble. Yet, they trekked on and pushed themselves to keep going every single day.

Students from NEXT School walk deeper into the Uttarakhand mountains. | Photo credits: Shwetha Krish

Photo credits: Shwetha Krish

American poet E.E. Cummings summed it up perfectly when he wrote, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

Our hyper-competitive world would have children (and even adults) believe that successful individuals possess an innate superiority. Additionally, it can sometimes seem that success and happiness must follow a predefined script.

While numerous factors influence success, the courage to make better choices is a powerful catalyst.

Studies show how children higher in courage are able to navigate social and emotional pressures better in school. They march confidently to the beat of their own drum, taking academic risks even if it isn’t what everyone else is doing.

Courage is also related to a greater sense of purpose, better choices, and life satisfaction later on as adults.

As educators and parents, it is vital we examine how to better discuss courage with children and help them recognise it in themselves. 

The students from NEXT School demonstrated how courage doesn’t always involve a superhero swooping in to save the day.

It is also a testament to the Indiahikes conviction that outdoor learning accelerates and reinforces life skills lessons in a short span of time.

Away from structured spaces and the fear of doing or saying something wrong, children have the rare opportunity to see themselves in a different light.

Janusa Sangma

Content Writer

About the author

Janusa is most at home exploring a faraway mountain trail. She follows the music wherever it may lead, guided by her ever-constant anchors – a love for writing, the mountains, wildlife, and grassroots work in the social sector.

She enjoys writing for organisations and individuals creating meaningful impact.

Before taking up writing as a full-time profession, she worked with corporates, non-profits, social enterprises, education companies, and PR organisations.

When she's not bent over a computer or buried in a Word Document, you will find her befriending a dog (any dog), swimming, or running for the hills.

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