Natural Outdoor Learning Environment

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Natural Outdoor Learning Environment

Natural Outdoor Learning Environment


Environmental education, in its simplest form, is about helping people understand the interconnect nature of the planet, and their place in it. It recognizes that actions have ramifications, and the lack of consideration for our affect on the environment has led to some of the most deplorable conditions in the world today. The goal of environmental education is to encourage children to take responsibility for their actions in order that they wiil act responsibly and sensitively towards the environment.


The educational use of the outdoors to provide both inspiring and challenging personal experiences is well established and makes for a viable setting to do research studies. It provides for a captive group of participants and an arena for a variety of activities that can provide meaningful experiences. Outdoor education is inherently relevant to students because they are personally and experientially challenged by the situation presented (Barab, 2006). In many situations, their comfort level is disrupted and they have to make choices that immediately affect them. Outdoor education creates events that put students into problem solving predicaments and the decisions they make impact them directly and usually quite quickly (Barab, 2006). The setting of outdoor education programs creates situations in which students inherently have a vested interest in what goes on during the program. In many cases, some sense of personal security is threatened during such programs.

These characteristics make outdoor education programs a likely candidate to provide meaningful learning experiences. Outdoor education programs must be based on solid learning theories, for they too, must have a learning plan based on proven guidelines. These programs are not just allowing students to escape their traditional four-walled classroom for the experiences of the real world (Barab, 2006). Practitioners need to know the reasons for teaching subject matter in the outdoor setting as well as the how to teach in the outdoors.

Especially because the outdoors is not specifically designed for comfort and, therefore, more unforgiving than the traditional classroom setting, it is critical that outdoor educators have a well-grounded understanding of what they are doing and why. Without a learning theory as a guide, the educator may end up doing nothing more than exposing students to the real world in hopes that the process takes place.(Confrey, 2005)

Outdoor education is grounded on the idea that learning is a perpetual quest for adventure and discovery, especially during adolescence when maturing young people are finding their boundaries of abilities through seeking out adventure. It is no wonder that youth organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America, Outward Bound, 4-H Club, Boys and Girls Clubs, Little League, etc., incorporate outdoor experiential activities as part of their education. Youth rehabilitation programs also turn to outdoor education to bring back the adventure and discovery aspect of learning. Even adult leadership and team oriented training may use an outdoor experiential program to enhance and re-vitalize the learning environment through adventure and ...
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