I wonder – let’s not lose the lesson

Today I was teaching an Outdoor Ed class and we were doing a practical lesson on camp cooking using Trangias.

It’s always fun doing experiential lessons and I get to share a few cautionary camping tales regarding the misuse of fuel cookers.
I also get to share one of my favourite camping adages “Fire – a good servant but a bad master.”

There was one thing I noticed that I felt is worthy of comment here.

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At one point I instructed the students to 1/3 fill their Trangia burners.

I then noticed that one after the other, these year 10 (15yo) students would come to me asking “Is this the right amount of fuel?”

In this moment we as teachers (and parents) could respond in a number of ways.
The most common I hear is – “yes”.
The affirmation the student (child) was hoping for, however, I think there is another way.
A way that requires them to think, to back themselves, to explore, to discover…

I love the phrase…”I wonder”

This response requires the student (child) to consider all they know…to recall the instructions they were given, to use their own brain to solve the issue, to reflect, explore.

The stakes are often low with these questions seeking clarification too.

The worst that can happen for my students today was that their flame might go out and they would need to relight it.

I remember a situation when I was overseeing a Home Economics teacher in a class doing baking with the students.
A student approached her and asked “Was that plain flour or self raising flour, Miss?”
The teacher responded with the answer “It’s self raising flour of course, otherwise you would have a flat cake!”

I chatted with the teacher after the lesson and reflected on the fact that I think a deeper learning my have occurred if she had said “I wonder”.
A flat cake would have been an unforgettable learning experience for that lad.

Sometimes we can prevent great lessons from occurring simply by being too eager in responding to students’ (and children’s) questions for affirmation of them doing something correctly.

‘I wonder’ if there is another option that might better serve them?

I wonder?


Sam Nelson, Rite Journey Leader, Timaru Boys’ High School, NZ

“The Rite Journey’s impact on the at Timaru Boys’ High School has been extremely positive.The programme continues to go from strength to strength. We survey all students every year at Timaru Boys’ and the evidence is without doubt is that the Rite Journey is having a massive, positive impact on the culture and students at Timaru Boys’ High School. Our boys are transforming into respectful, resilient young men. The Rite Journey has had such a positive impact on my teaching journey that it will now always be the backbone of the way I lead staff and students. The programme has been without doubt the most rewarding part of my teaching career. The connections that I have formed with students will be forever close to my heart. I am extremely grateful to Andrew for the program he has created and without doubt would recommend it to any school that wants their students to have the skills to deal with the ever changing 21st century”