By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
In simple terms, outdoor education means education that is 'in', 'about' and 'for' the out-of-doors. 'In' tells us that the outdoor education can occur at any place out-of-doors, let it be playground, a factory, garden and so on. 'About' explains that the topic is the outdoors itself and the cultural aspects related to the natural environment. 'For' tells us that the purpose of outdoor education is related to implementing the cognitive, psycho-motor, and affective domains of learning for the sake of the ecosystem itself. It means understanding, using, and appreciating the natural resources for their upholding.
Outdoor Education is a broad multi-disciplinary, multi-activity field of study that has at its core the development of knowledge through real-life experiences, through active relationships, usually in the out-of-doors. There are aspects of traditional program settings that inhibit the emotional growth and education of some individuals. Most change efforts involve verbal interchanges between teacher and student. This is not an effective way of reaching many people, especially adolescents who may be resistant to talking or who lack trust in adult authority figures. Outdoor programs offer a physically active way for teachers and students to relate to one another, so the emphasis is not solely on talk.
Such outdoor programs also place troubled youth in unique settings where they are often quite unsure of themselves. Moving out of the usual environment sometimes serves to reduce defensiveness and change relationships with adult leaders. Many programs incorporate an element of perceived risk, thereby encouraging participants to move beyond their comfort zones and face their issues and fears.
Also, many outdoor programs use a small-group format and encourage interdependence among group members. In expedition programs, where participants and leaders venture out into natural settings for extended periods of time, the 24-hour-a-day group experience becomes very powerful. Besides children are away from their family and familiar surroundings for a long period of time which prepares them to be independent, confident and adaptive in new settings.
Camping, hiking and other activities and the benefits associated with them have become increasingly rare with the progression of urban sprawl and the decreasing access to nature. This growing lack of opportunity denies children access to an environment steeped in learning opportunities critical to their healthy development.
Following are some benefits of outdoor education:
- Offers meaningful learning situations for children and adolescents which help them become a better individual.
- Children have the opportunity to learn hands-on and apply the principles in their school curriculum.
- Stimulates students' curiosity and allows them to discover the excitement and satisfaction of learning out-of-doors.
- Makes them feel responsible towards the environment.
- Provide excellent opportunities to examine through personal experience many of our present social and cultural values.
- Students can learn about different cultures and heritages in a more interesting and fluid manner.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.