CHANGEMAKERS: Jordan Kent on Outdoor Adventures Big & Small
Jordan Kent has been teaching young people about the great outdoors for more than a decade. He is passionate about helping others develop a positive relationship with nature; whether that’s on a canoe trip or in their own backyard. Kent’s enthusiasm becomes immediately apparent when chatting with him about his work.
The Ottawa Adventure Film Festival, where he is a valued team member, is a perfect match for that enthusiasm. “What I appreciate the most about OAFF is how we as the audience get to explore the journey of self-discovery and connection with the natural world,” he says.
In 4 short years the festival has seen a lot of growth, and Kent has been there since the very beginning. “It started as a single screening and has evolved into a truly wonderful festival,” he says.
Kent has worn a lot of hats for the fest, from media relations and acquiring content, to good old fashioned greeting people at the door.
Kent’s journey started with his work at the Pontiac High School, where he helped grow a canoe club into a full scale outdoor education program. “We have cross-country skiing, climbing, snowshoeing, hiking, camping, downhill skiing, and much more,” he says. “I organize lots of trips for students. I also teach two courses in outdoor education: One for senior students and another for special needs students. Both are incredibly rewarding.”
So what is it about the open air, and why is outdoor education so important to someone like Jordan Kent? For him, it’s something that works from the outside in. While learning to appreciate nature is certainly a large part of it, Kent is always impressed by what the outdoors can teach young people about themselves.
“Spending time unplugged, taking on new challenges, and being more aware of their surroundings [allows] students to become more self-aware,” he says. “It’s this self-discovery that is most valuable.”
Another bonus he’s seen in his years is the re-discovery a parent can have through their children as they spend more time outside. “I know I teach outdoor education to youth, but it’s the parents that have lost their appreciation for the outdoors that need outdoor ed the most,” he says.
Kent brings his work home with him in the best way possible. Even when large scale outdoor activities are off the menu, he turns home life with his two daughters (AKA “The Adventure Girls”) into an exciting experience.
“For kids, memorable adventures can happen just beyond the doorstep,” says Jordan. During the unexpected spring isolation period, Jordan and his girls have collected sap, carved canoe paddles, discovered their own skating trail, spotted the first spring caterpillar, studied ice formations, and so much more.
According to Kent, a parent’s attitude toward their child’s relationship with nature can have the strongest impact on it. Kent strongly encourages parents to get involved, even when getting outside is a challenge.
“If you’re able to get outside, even in the yard, there are lots of learning opportunities. We all have an inner curiosity and there are so many questions to explore in nature,” Kent says. “Have your kid use self-directed learning to create project. It may lead them to surveying the birds as they return north, cooking a camping meal outside, or anywhere their curiosity takes them.”
Unexpected set-backs may keep you from the activities you planned, but if you take a page out of Jordan Kent’s book, it’s just an opportunity to get creative.