Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
Outdoor education usually refers to organized learning that takes place in the outdoors. Outdoor education programs sometimes involve residential or journey-based experiences in which students participate in a variety of adventurous challenges in the form of outdoor activitiessuch as hiking, climbing, canoeing, ropes courses, and group games. Outdoor education draws upon the philosophy, theory, and practices ofexperiential education and environmental education.
Outdoor education can be simply defined as experiential learning in, for, or about the outdoors. The term ‘outdoor education’, however, is used quite broadly to refer to a range of organized activities which take place in a variety of ways in predominantly outdoor environments. Common definitions of outdoor education are difficult to achieve because interpretations vary according to culture, philosophy, and local conditions.
Outdoor education is often referred to as synonymous with adventure education, adventure programming, and outdoor learning, outdoor school, adventure therapy, adventure recreation, adventure tourism, expeditionary learning, challenge education, experiential education,environmental education, Forest schools and wilderness education. Consensus about the meaning of these terms are also difficult to achieve. However, outdoor education often uses or draws upon these related elements and/or informs these areas. The hallmark of outdoor education is its focus on the "outdoor" side of this education; whereas adventure education would focus on the adventure side and environmental education would focus on environmental. Wilderness education involves expeditions into wilderness "where man is but a visitor." For more information, see Outdoor education definitions (Wikibooks).
Education outside the classroom
"Education outside the classroom" describes school curriculum learning, other than with a class of students sitting in a room with a teacher and books. It encompasses biology field trips and searching for insects in the school garden, as well as indoor activities like observing stock control in a local shop, or visiting a museum. It is a concept currently enjoying a revival, because of the recognition of benefits from the more active style. The Education and Skills Committee of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom has reported that it brings history and art to life, develops social skills, and clearly enhances geography and science., while DfES has prepared practical guidelines for outdoor activities.
Despite the evidence supporting an extension of outdoor learning for children, there are a number of obstacles in the way. One of these obstacles is risk aversion amongst teachers, parents and others, raising reluctance to such diverse and physical tasks. The journalist Tim Gill has written about parental and institutional risk aversion affecting many activities with children in his book "No Fear".. Another obstacle is the perceived high cost of facilitating outdoor learning. Creating an outdoor learning environment needn't cost a great deal, however. The UK Early Years Framework Stage, which outlines best practice in Early Years teaching, asserts that: "Outdoor learning is more effective when adults focus on what children need to be able to do rather than what children need to have. An approach that considers experiences rather than equipment places children at the centre of learning and ensures that individual children's learning and developmental needs are taken account of and met effectively"
Linda Tallent, a UK-based educational consultant who has worked extensively with schools to develop their outdoor spaces into learning environments, agrees. She believes that by focussing on activities and skill development, it is possible to develop an outdoor learning curriculum on a 'shoe string'. She cites a comment by Will Nixon, who reminds readers that 'Using the real world is the way learning has happened for 99.9% of human existence. Only in the last hundred years have we put it into a little box called a classroom.'. Tallent also refers to evidence from a number of studies that the most effective way of learning is through participation, and calls on educators to make a special effort to create opportunities for children to participate in their learning.
Some typical aims of outdoor education are to:
- learn how to overcome adversity
- enhance personal and social development
- develop a deeper relationship with nature.
Outdoor education spans the three domains of self, others, and the natural world. The relative emphasis of these three domains varies from one program to another. An outdoor education program can, for example, emphasize one (or more) of these aims to:
- teach outdoor survival skills
- improve problem solving skills
- reduce recidivism
- enhance teamwork
- develop leadership skills
- understand natural environments
- promote spirituality
Modern outdoor education owes its beginnings to a number of separate initiatives.Organized camping was evident in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century in Europe, the UK, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. The Scoutingmovement, established in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell, employs non-formal education with an emphasis on practical outdoor activities. The first Outward Boundcentre at Aberdovey in Wales was established during the Second World War. TheForest schools of Denmark are examples of European programs with similar aims and objectives.
A key outdoor education pioneer was Kurt Hahn, a German educator who founded schools such as the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, Gordonstoun School inScotland, Atlantic College in Wales, the United World Colleges movement, the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme (which emphasizes community service, craftsmanship skills, physical skill, and outdoor expeditions), and the Outward Bound movement.
The second half of the twentieth century saw rapid growth of outdoor education in all sectors (state, voluntary, and commercial) with an ever-widening range of client groups and applications. In this period Outward Bound spread to over 40 countries around the world, including the USA in the 1960s. This, in turn, spawned many offshoot programs, including Project Adventure and the National Outdoor Leadership School, and professional associations such as the Wilderness Education Association and Association for Experiential Education. (See also North America in theAround the World section.)
A history of outdoor education in the UK has been documented by Lyn Cook (1999) . and a history of outdoor education in New Zealand has been published in Pip Lynch's 'Camping in the Curriculum' (2007). Also see History of outdoor education.
Philosophy and theory
Philosophy and theory about outdoor education tends to emphasise the effect of natural environments on human beings, the educative role ofstress and challenge, and experiential learning.
One view is that participants are at their "rawest" level when outdoors because they are "stripped" of many of the conveniences of modern life. Participants can become more aware that they are part of a greater ecosystem and are not as bound by social customs and norms. In essence participants can be true to themselves and more able to see others as people regardless of race, class, religion etc. Outdoor education also helps instill the basic elements of teamwork because participants often need to work together and rely on others. For many people a high ropes course or an outdoor activity may stretch their comfort zone and cause them to challenge themselves physically which in turn can lead to challenging oneself mentally.
The roots of modern outdoor education can be found in the philosophical work of:
- John Dewey
- William James
- Aldo Leopold
- John Locke
- John Muir
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- Henry David Thoreau
Foundational work on the philosophy of outdoor education includes work by:
A wide range of social science and specific outdoor education theories and models have been applied in an effort to better understand outdoor education. Amongst the key theoretical models or concepts are:
- Experiential education theories
- Group development theories
- the Outward Bound Process Model
- Stress, optimal arousal, comfort zone, and psychological flow theories
- Psychoevolutionary theory and the Biophilia hypothesis
Around the world
Outdoor education occurs, in one form or another, in most if not all countries of the world. However, it can be implemented very differently, depending on the cultural context. Some countries, for example, view outdoor education as synonymous with environmental education, whilst other countries treat outdoor education and environmental education as distinct. Modern forms of outdoor education are most prevalent in UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and to some extent Asia and Africa. A map is available of locations of outdoor education organisations, facilities, and people . For more information, see Outdoor education around the world (Wikibooks).
Research and critical views
There is much anecdotal evidence about benefits of outdoor education experiences; teachers, for example, often speak of the improvement they have in relationships with students following a trip. However, hard evidence showing that outdoor education has a demonstrable long-term effect on behaviour or educational achievement is harder to identify; this may be in part because of the difficulty involved in conducting studies which separate out the effects of outdoor education on meaningful outcomes.
A major meta-analysis of 97 empirical studies indicated a positive overall effect of adventure education programs on outcomes such as self-concept, leadership, and communication skills. This study also indicated that there appeared to be ongoing positive effects. The largest empirical study of the effects of outdoor education programs (mostly Outward Bound programs) found small-moderate short-term positive impacts on a diverse range of generic life skills, with the strongest outcomes for longer, expedition-based programs with motivated young adults, and partial long-term retention of these gains. 
In "Adventure in a Bun", Chris Loynes has suggested that outdoor education is increasingly an entertainment park consumption experience. In a paper entitled "The Generative Paradigm", Loynes has also called for an increase in “creativity, spontaneity and vitality". These dialogues indicate a need for those working in outdoor education to examine assumptions to ensure that their work is educational (Hovelynck & Peeters, 2003).
Outdoor education has been found more beneficial to those students who find classroom learning more challenging. This may be due to a non-academic family background, a personal psychological trait such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or because they are boys.
When German children from forest kindergartens went to primary school, teachers observed a significant improvement in reading, writing, mathematics, social interactions and many other areas.
Using the Environment as an Integrating Context for learning (EIC) is the foundation of a substantial report which found benefits in learning outside the classroom on standardized measures of academic achievement in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies; reduced discipline problems; and increased enthusiasm for learning and pride in accomplishments.
There are several important trends and changing circumstances for outdoor education, including: