ADHD, Outdoor Learning, and Badge-Based Education

Beverly Matoney 3 Comments

In March of 2020, home education became the new normal for American families when the pandemic shut down schools to keep students safe.

The education system moved strategically online to complete the 2019/2020 academic year.

While homeschooling parents continued "business as usual" within their homes, traditionally schooled students had to make a significant change.

Many parents and students found a routine that looked like their traditional homeschooling friends. It is safe to say children as a whole acclimated to the new challenge.

Becoming homeschoolers as a new paradigm

As parents became “accidental homeschoolers” during the pandemic, many discovered the rigid learning-styles of the classroom were not a fit for their son.

Boys are natural learners - think of all they learn from age 0-5!  Those are times of unparalleled learning. 

Along the way, boys learn that learning isn’t fun. They are taught to stop being inquisitive, they stop being engaged about what inspires them. 

Many parents recognized this and embraced homeschooling as the perfect fit for their boys.

Tailoring education to the student

Boys are naturally Kinetic learners who learn by moving and often thrive with a more hands-on approach to education.

A student with an extra serving of energy and excitement lighting up their brain can be a recipe for chaos in a restrictive setting where they are often unfairly labeled.

ADHD or just boys being boys?

The truth is, diagnoses of ADHD, learning disabilities, and other behavioral disorders climb each year.

While more research is being conducted to ensure children get the help they need at the right time in their development, busy boys are commonly misdiagnosed, especially with ADHD.

However, their reported "symptoms" are often typical for a boy’s physical and mental development and maturity.

What to do?

Engage the child and permit them to experience the learning process fully. Extra energy and excitement directed properly is the special sauce of successful active learning.

How Trail Life USA works with enthusiastic boys

At Trail Life USA, activities and programs are set up in a way that makes sense to active boys.

A surefire way to excite, engage, and encourage young men begins by working with, not against, a child's natural inclination toward active learning. 

At Trail Life meetings, Trail Guides keep active learners engaged by allowing them to participate in every part of Troop life.

Whether a diagnosis is in place or not, engaging active bodies and brains helps Troop meetings run smoothly.

Because boys thrive in Troop active learning environments,Trail Life USA is an excellent backdrop for boy-focused instruction.

.The key to a successful Troop lies within its ability to shift and adapt to keep the students EXCITED.  A bit of creativity goes a long way. 

Tips from Trail Life USA

  • Open a time of learning by building expectation and excitement. Boys want to know what is coming and want to take an active role in learning. When prepared properly boys soon learn their roles and want to lead.
  • Responsibility is the backbone of building character. Get boys excited about their time together. It will spill over into a willingness to learn during the time spent together.
  • Learn by engaging as many senses as possible.
  • A hands-on lesson will stick with the boys much longer. Let them problem-solve, work together. Sit back and observe. 
  • As boys engage in active learning, your job is to mentor and assist whenever needed. Stand back and be amazed at their brilliance!

How to Achieve Active Learning for Energetic Boys with Badge-Based Education

  •  **Illustrate** Badge requirements often include instruction time. Bring out props or hands-on activities to illustrate an important point in the lesson.

**Pro Tip** Bring 3-4 different objects and pass around during the discussion. Hand objects to a child you may need to "bring back" into the lesson by redirecting their focus.

Keep the objects moving by telling the students there will be time later for more observation with magnifying glasses.

  •  **Move** Tell your boys to get on their feet! A body at rest stays at rest. A body in motion is awake and engaged.

According to Andrew Pudewa, curriculum author and speaker for the Institute for Excellence in Writing, boys are hardwired for action. Use motion to enhance learning.

Pudewa states that males typically have less communication between their brain hemispheres. Motion activates the receptors between the hemispheres, improving comprehension (iewtv,2009).

  •  **Discuss ** Ask questions. Without adequate time to process and discuss the lesson, the majority of boys are already at a disadvantage regarding understanding and mastery.

Teach your boys that questions are the ticket to complete understanding.

Socrates was right when he said, "Strong minds discuss ideas."

Understanding is the glue that allows a mind to connect what they already know to what they are currently learning.

Expanding engagement 

To keep momentum going, mix things up!

  • Delegate responsibilities among boys.
  •  Allow older boys to take responsibility and trade-off leading group badges.
  • Know the resources within your group and where to find additional learning opportunities to improve each meeting. 

When boys are involved in high-focus activities, allow for group problem-solving opportunities rather than presenting information "classroom style."

Remember, big kids and adults also learn from doing. Boys don't stop being boys when they reach their teen years!

Let them laugh, shoot the breeze and enjoy the process of achieving badges rather than just filling in blanks and checking off boxes.

Remember that while the end product is essential, the process is just as vital.

It's a matter of changing your approach to instruction as needed.

Boys learn best through action and adventure!  

Trail Life is a great experiential learning tool to bring learning to life as boys work together in a structured learning environment. It’s the ideal way to re-engage boys with their natural interests!

Best of all, your son will not think of it as school at all. 

As boys earn badges and take adventures with others, they grow in knowledge, character, and leadership. 

Ignite the natural spark of curiosity and learning in your son! 

Find a Troop near you or Start one Today!


Start a Troop    Find a Troop

About the Author
Beverly Matoney

Beverly Matoney

Share this Post