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International Exchange Sparks Russian Outdoor Education Program

Founders and supporters of “The Sea Teaches Everything” outdoor education program based in Moscow, Russia, gathered at Dartmouth in October. The coeducational program traces its origins to the experience of Russian professors and exchange students on a Dartmouth ropes course in 1988.

Outdoor Russians

Brian Kunz of Outdoor Programs; Alexander Kamnev of Moscow State University; Lindsay Putnam of the Marion W. Cross Elementary School in Vermont; and Oleg Kamnev of Russia’s “The Sea Teaches Everything” program. (Photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

“This type of outdoor education was fairly radical to those from a communist country,” says Brian Kunz, deputy director of Outdoor Programs, who recalls overseeing the ropes course that day in 1988. “The professors were especially impressed with how the physical challenges opened up communication among normally reserved students,” he says.

Back in Russia, among those intrigued was Alexander Kamnev, doctor of science of marine biology at Moscow State University and professor of pedagogy at Moscow City Psychological-Pedagogical University.

Kamnev and Kunz first met in Russia in 1993, which led to more exchanges, curriculum sharing, and research by Kamnev that eventually brought about the establishment of the program.

“It was not just me—we began together,” says Kamnev of his work with Kunz. Of a return trip to Russia in 1996, Kunz says of the program, “It was amazing to see how successful it had become.”

Today over 3,000 students a year participate in “The Sea Teaches Everything,” during which students ages 7 through 19 raft, sail, scuba dive, and study marine biology. Kamnev advises the program, which is the most popular in the country and has worldwide appeal, having graduated American and Israeli students.

This October Alexander Kamnev and his son, Oleg Kamnev, executive director of “The Sea” program, visited Kunz and his wife, Lindsay Putnam, an outdoor education teacher at the Marion W. Cross Elementary School in Norwich, Vt. The four attended an outdoor education conference in Montreal and met with Provost Barry Scherr, the Mandel Professor of Russian, and John Kopper, professor of Russian and comparative literature.

BY STEVEN J. SMITH

Last Updated: 1/7/10