On a recent airline flight I forgot my iPod. This left me baldly exposed to conversations I’d rather not have been privy to. For example, a woman in the seat behind me went on at great length effusing over the life-changing experience she just had during her vacation. She made a bungee jump. This person elaborated in grand style, enthusiastically and loudly, regaling her seatmate on how the bungee jumping experience truly marked a new beginning for her. And maybe it did. After all, for her the experience held the hallmarks of adventure as one researcher defines it: “A state of mind that begins with feelings of uncertainty about the outcome and always ends with feelings of enjoyment, satisfaction or elation about the successful completion of that journey.” Boy, she sure was elated. She stayed elated for the whole flight. How I missed my iPod. It may have been all for naught, sitting in front of Madam Bungee, had it not started me thinking: This sense of adventure, the perceived risk of stepping out of one’s comfort zone as one steps off the dock and onto a tall ship is a key part of our experience. My bungee friend clearly had taken her own step out of her comfort zone when she stepped off that platform and onto nothing. But is one step enough?
The academic literature on adventure programming cites a wide range of opinion on how long a program needs to be effective. One of the few articles I’ve found specifically discussing sail training (in this case, in the United Kingdom) states that a voyage much shorter than seven days is too short to gain full benefit from the experience. (Click here for the article). Many of us have in sail training experience the fourth-day epiphany. That’s when students suddenly “really start to get it.” So, maybe “less than seven days” could be hedged as more of a “seven plus-or-minus three” kind of number. If we’re willing concede less than seven days and lower the miminum to four as the magic number of days of exposure, can we continue to whittle down the minimum effective exposure length? Let’s don’t forget the after school programs that sail afternoons as little as once a week. Surely we’ve seen positive results in these exposures, as well. What is the magic number? Is there one? Does it depend on trainee traits? Venue? What advantages do more days bring? How do we measure results to answer these kinds of questions?Post your thoughts here by commenting below. — Posted by Eric J. Shaw, Ph.D., ASTA Education Director