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Outdoor education occurs, in one form or another, in most, if not all countries around the world. While a general definition seems to be "Outdoor education is education 'in', 'about', and 'for' the out-of-doors." (Donaldson & Donaldson, 1958, p.63) Outdoor education should be a fundamental part of the Australian National curriculum. Outdoor education is not meant to replace formal education, rather it enhances what is learnt in the classroom. Using literacy and numeracy skills in a natural context such as an orienteering or bushwalking challenge gives the pupils sense of purpose to their learnings.
I believe (the purpose of) education is learning basic skills to function in a modern day society. Learning fundamental skills such as maths and English as well as functional skills like teamwork and social skills.. (more??)
The purpose of outdoor education in my view is getting students to a 'primal' or their 'rawest' level. When they are outdoors, students are not as bound by the social customs that we have today. Outdoor education often pushes students past their comfort zones. They are stripped of many of the conveniences that we experience in modern day life. With the perceived risks the outdoors creates, there is a need to use teamwork skills which isn't employed/needed/used in everyday life.
Research into the benefits of outdoor adventure activities highlights the valuable contribution they make to personal health and wellbeing. As the empirical and anecdotal evidence in the outdoor adventure field begins to unfold, the proliferation of evidenced-based research grows exponentially. The unique opportunities within the natural and social environments offered by outdoor adventure activities provide varying contexts in which these positive connections are made. These connections are referred to in the outdoor adventure literature as being with the self, others and the environment. Outdoor adventure activities provide opportunities for the connection of individuals with nature (the natural environment), direct connection with other people (interpersonal), and importantly, with themselves (personal). Specifically, the benefits of these connections are shown to lie in the strength and placement of these connections.
The benefits of outdoor activities
In a discussion at the Outdoor Recreation Industry Leaders Think Tank conducted by Service Skills Australia in November 2007, it was suggested that one thing the outdoor industry1 needed was evidence-based research of the benefits of participating in outdoor activities. To achieve this end, a group of sponsors donated to a pool of money, which would enable the collation of relevant research in Australia from 1995 to 2008.
The Centre for Tourism Research at the University of Canberra was approached to conduct the research. Initially the structure was planned to be based upon the 1997 Benefits of Parks and Recreation Catalogue from Ontario, Canada, however this was revised to producing a single report that provided a clear summary of the available research. The final Australian report aims to provide the basis for a discussion paper for a planned national summit scheduled for mid-2008.
The benefits of outdoor education include better teamwork ability/group development, increased fitness, increased cognitive function and increasing self esteem.
As stated on the Tasmanian Department of Education website, outdoor education programs in schools have the ability to contribute greatly to the personal development of students through positive experiences.
How you would be able to deliver on your philosophy of outdoor education in a practical sense
Delivering on my philosophy of outdoor education in a practical sense is dependent on a number of factors such as the age of the participants and the support of the school hierarchy. Typically where outdoor education is offered in the primary/high school it is in the form of a camp usually around a week in length. These activities are highly valuable but I believe outdoor education can offer so much more than just a one off camping experience.
Education outside the classroom in the outdoor setting can be delivered by such experiences as searching for insects in the school oval, cleaning a local park as part of a landcare initiative, walking up the main street on a mapping exercise, gardening, petwalks for the R.S.P.C.A. and simply taking games and activities out of the gym and classroom and undertaking them in an outdoor setting. Doing this can bring an activity to life and enhance the fun factor really engaging young learners.
However the real benefits of an outdoor education program are realised when the participants are encouraged to "grow" or move beyond their comfort zone. Obviously these activities need to be age appropriate but this is why activities such as abseiling and rock climbing are so popular in the corporate world. Participants feel energised, accomplished and connected. To quote Hahn()"As our society has become information rich, it has become action poor. It has become poor in the necessity and possibility for struggle against the environment. As affluence has increased, the young person's environment has become impoverished for responsible and productive action, or any action that tests and develops him."
Questions to be considered:
What does outdoor education mean to you?
Whilst there are many definitions that abound concerning outdoor education I believe it literally means moving the curriculum outside the classroom. This is not a practical way of delivering all educational objectives however it should be noted that outdoor education has many benefits that cannot be ignored.
Why do we have OE programs and why should people participate in them
What sort of experienced and activities should be included in OE programs and why?