Outdoor Education

The term 'outdoor education' is defined simply as experiential learning in, for, about, or in the outdoors. However, it 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 formulate because interpretations vary according to culture, philosophy, and local conditions. Outdoor education draws upon the philosophy, theory, and practices of experiential education and environmental education. Outdoor education programs sometimes involve residential or journey-based experiences in which students participate in a variety of adventurous challenges such as hiking, climbing, canoeing, ropes courses, and group games. The hallmark of outdoor education is its focus on the "outdoor" side of education; whereas adventure education focuses on the adventure side and environmental education focuses on the environment. 

Neill (2006) provides a larger list of definitions of outdoor education. Priest (2004) provides definitions of adventure programming terms. The Definitions project was a yearlong project of 26 Federal Agencies and Non-profit Associations looking at definitions related to environmental education, interpretation, experiential education, outdoor education and related terms 

The philosophy behind outdoor education is the assumption that People are at their rawest level when outdoors. There is a realization that we are part of a greater ecosystem and are not as bound by social customs and norms. In essence we are more true to ourselves and it is easier to see people as people regardless of race, class, religion etc. Outdoor education also helps instil the basic elements of teamwork because we are forced to work together and rely on each other to achieve our objectives. For many people a high ropes course or an outdoor activity may stretch their comfort zone and cause them to test themselves physically, which in turn can lead to challenging oneself mentally. 

The primary aims of outdoor education are to learn how to overcome adversity, enhance personal and social development, and develop a deeper relationship with nature. The three domains of self, others, and the natural world, are all enveloped in Outdoor Education. The relative emphasis of these three domains varies from one program to another. An outdoor education program emphasizes 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, and promote spirituality. 

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). 

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. Aberdovey, Wales was host to the first Outward Bound Centre, and this was during the Second World War. The period after the 1950s 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.

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What areas have been developed of philosophy of education regarding outdoor education?

A:The major areas of philosophy that have developed for the field of outdoor education are: wilderness experience, which promotes learning through experiences of nature; experiential learning, focuses on John Dewey’s work; psychological growth, emphasizes personal development and growth; outdoor education, approaches generated on account of outdoor experience; and postmodernism, deconstructing the society, culture and education.

Q:What is the concept of outdoor education?

A:Outdoor education is learning that takes place in the natural environment; therefore it broadly covers range of activities and learning processes. It is categorized as learning through various adventurous challenges. Not only is it concerned with physical activities, but also with development of social skills that come to forefront during the outdoor activity process.

Q:Can you tell me some of the benefits of acquiring education outside?

A:You can have several benefits of education outside, if it is delivered in a planned and sequential manner. Students learn various people skills such as teamwork, leadership, and interpersonal skills. Each student also learns about his or her own strengths and weaknesses and gets the opportunity to work and learn in challenging environments.

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