Brad Anderson’s Adventure Learning


To those at FHC, it seems normal. Students have become accustomed to the event. Once a year, hand-crafted shields permeate the school, and a concluding battle ends the Age of the Empires campaign led by social studies teacher Brad Anderson. However, to an unfamiliar bystander, the shield battle strikes one as unconventional, eccentric, and certainly outside of curriculum lines. But to Anderson, his unconventional activities do not detract, but rather, add to learning.

“It has been a long ten years leading up to this,” Anderson said. “My inspiration comes from my own experience and growth as a person. I learn from leading, I learn from watching, and I learn best from doing.”

Anderson actively institutes elements of interactivity in his classroom. Every year, he collaborates with the other world history teachers and hosts a dodgeball battle in which students must stay in groups with their teams and attempt to circulate and flank their enemies. Students must prepare their shields and learn active battle strategies before competing, and this element of interactive learning has cemented the battle as a recent tradition of FHC. However, Anderson’s unique teaching methods extend further than just the battle and its conceiving.

This year, students in Anderson’s world history class have been learning not indoors, but outdoors. According to Anderson, students can be found outside everyday, “whether it’s rain, sleet or snow.”

“This year, I’ve instituted what I like to call adventure learning,” Anderson said. “First, we had an initial kind of boot camp week and a half of content reading, kind of your traditional school environment, and then I took it outside. We built civilizations and communities from the ground up, with ironworking, shipbuilding, government, coinage and currency, mapmaking, archery, musical instruments, law codes, and eventually, shields and protection. Those are some of the things that I’ve done that are kind of outside the box.”

Anderson first brought his students outside, tasking them first with building a shelter. From there, they built their civilizations, concluding the adventure with a final battle. Anderson believes this method of interactive teaching builds “an attitude of grit” in his students.

“I’m sure there are some students that aren’t all in,” Anderson said, “but I’ve had overwhelming approval of the outdoors classroom I’ve set up. It’s something different in their days.”

Seth Udell and Madeline Becker, juniors at FHC in Anderson’s world history class, are two of the many students in praise of his unique teaching. According to Seth, the games “not only teach [the students,] but use [their] competitiveness to build unity and teamwork within the class,” and the competitiveness only makes them want to learn more.

Madeline, with similar sentiment, appreciates the interest and fun provoked by the unique classroom activities. To her, the enticing activities activate learning by making it something to look forward to “instead of feeling like a chore.” Madeline also appreciates the respect demonstrated by Anderson.

“I think that the amount of respect he shows,” Madeline said, “towards everyone, students and teachers, makes him that much more respected in turn.”

The respect devoted by students toward Anderson has been built not just through mutual respect, but cultivated also through his hardworking attitude. Anderson never settles, and this is apparent through his various devotions, whether they be teaching, coaching wrestling, or even independent challenges. Every six months, Anderson brings himself to complete a “grueling” task, just for the sake of challenge.

I love being challenged,” Anderson said. “In my personal life, I like to do something epic every six months. I have to challenge myself to a grueling activity, something that’ll make me squirm. This past fall I did a 12 mile Goruck challenge through the night, where we marched, ran, and went through mud up to 30 miles in one night. It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging activities of my life, and I came out a new person after it.”

Above all, Anderson stands for grit, challenge, and perseverance. Through his teaching, he activates these philosophies and principles in his students with explicit intent.

“What I’ve learned about myself has come from adverse situations where I was forced to lead, to follow, to be apart of the team, to figure things out on the fly or use my prior knowledge to adapt to a situation,” Anderson said. “I think we only learn or grow when we’re challenged, and for a lot of kids, actually going outside and having to actually do something during the school day is a challenge.”