Benefits of Outdoor Education

“You can’t learn about the outside if you are on the inside” – Mick Waters

What is Outdoor Learning?

Outdoor Learning is a broad term that includes: outdoor play in the early years, school grounds projects, environmental education, recreational and adventure activities, personal and social development programmes, expeditions, team building, leadership training, management development, education for sustainability, adventure therapy ... and more. Outdoor Learning does not have a clearly defined boundary but it does have a common core…

All forms of Outdoor Learning value direct experience

Outdoor Learning can provide a dramatic contrast to the indoor classroom. Direct experience outdoors is more motivating and has more impact and credibility. Through skilled teaching, interpretation or facilitation, outdoor experiences readily become a stimulating source of fascination, personal growth and breakthroughs in learning.

Outdoor Learning is active learning in the outdoors

In Outdoor Learning participants learn through what they do, through what they encounter and through what they discover. Participants learn about the outdoors, themselves and each other, while also learning outdoor skills. Active learning readily develops the learning skills of enquiry, experiment, feedback, reflection, review and cooperative learning.

Outdoor Learning is real learning

Not only does Outdoor Learning happen in the natural environments where participants can see, hear, touch and smell the real thing, it also happens in an arena where actions have real results and consequences. Outdoor Learning can help to bring many school subjects alive while also providing experiential opportunities for fulfilling the National Curriculum aim which is to enable pupils to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities, to manage risk and to cope with change and adversity.

Outdoor Learning broadens horizons and stimulates new interests

There is no limit to the experiences and curiosities that outdoor environments and activities can arouse. Participants frequently discover potential, abilities and interests that surprise themselves and others. Safety codes provide clear boundaries and learning goals give clear direction, but Outdoor Learning draws in energy and inspiration from all around. 'Broadening horizons' is a common outcome.

“Plus est en vous” Kurt Hahn

What are the values and benefits of Outdoor Learning?

Outdoor education, training and recreation promote active learning through direct personal experience and offer excitement, fun and adventure within a framework of safety.

Active learning and adventure outdoors can take place in a variety of environments: rural and urban, local and more remote. Outdoor education, training and recreation involve both young people and adults in a wide range of experiences, including adventurous activities on land and water and activities with an environmental focus. Methods used include skills-focused learning, problem solving, team building and self-reliant journeys and activities, with residential experience an especially valued feature.

Challenging experience outdoors impacts powerfully upon a young person’s intellectual, physical, spiritual, social and moral development.

Use of the outdoors makes a major contribution to physical and environmental education and enhances many other curriculum areas. It contributes to personal growth and social awareness and develops skills for life and the world of work. Qualities such as a sense of responsibility and a purpose in life are nurtured. There is also a great deal of intrinsic enjoyment and satisfaction to be experienced from participation in outdoor activities.

Building self-confidence and self-esteem is fundamental to any young person’s development.

Outdoor activities provide valuable alternative, often non-competitive, avenues for achievement, as well as opportunities to develop independence and self-reliance. Through successfully facing up to the challenges which outdoor activities provide, overcoming fears and apprehensions along the way, young people make major strides in confidence, with implications for all aspects of their development.

A positive attitude to learning is essential if young people are to make the most of their education.

Participation in exciting and enjoyable outdoor activities with teachers, youth workers and peers reinforces a positive attitude to education and contributes significantly to the general ethos of a school or youth group. Direct experience out of doors stimulates and reinforces learning across many areas of the curriculum, and the use of the outdoors encourages young people to take greater responsibility for their own learning.

Awareness of the needs and contributions of others and the ability to sustain effective relationships, at work and in the family, are vital in today’s society.

Experience in the outdoors provides rich opportunities for personal and social development through carefully structured group work in challenging situations. Trust, care, tolerance and the willingness to give and accept support are all encouraged and anti-social behaviour is challenged. Opportunities are presented to exhibit and develop effective interpersonal behaviour and to work co-operatively and effectively in teams.

The purposeful use of leisure time is increasingly seen as making an important contribution to a fulfilling lifestyle.

Outdoor recreation introduces young people to a range of worthwhile leisure pursuits which will enrich their future lives, and develops the skills and knowledge essential for safe participation. Outdoor exercise contributes greatly to health and fitness and continuing participation in outdoor pursuits encourages the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle into middle age and beyond.

Our relationship with the environment is a key issue facing tomorrow’s citizens.

Active learning and adventure outdoors introduces young people to the environment in a way which develops understanding appreciation, awe, wonder and respect. It fosters sensitivity to the environment, helps young people to see themselves in a global context and helps to develop citizens with an awareness of the need for sustainable use of the world’s natural resources.

Tomorrow’s successful citizens will possess the adaptability to cope with a rapidly changing world of work and the responsibility to be an effective member of a community.

Challenging outdoor experiences promote the development of communication, problem solving and decision making skills which have currency across a range of occupations. They encourage a positive "opting in" and "can do" attitude. Young people’s horizons are broadened, new challenges come to be relished rather than shunned, and perseverance and determination are reinforced. Values and attitudes developed in a context of shared endeavour help to form a sound basis for responsible citizenship.