This conversation is closed.

Why is Outdoor Education not talked about as part of the curriculum in a viable alternative education?

I'm an aspiring outdoor educator which means anything from facilitating student groups or company executives through initiative, team-building or leadership games to leading months long expeditions through the back country with almost any non- motorized form of transport. I'm also a student that was empowered by a semester through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Through this program and also through any experience I have outside, I learn and feel inspired to teach an enormous amount. Outdoor or Adventure Education is an idea I find worth spreading.

  • May 12 2013: There are aspects of Outward Bound, Ropes and initiatives, and similar outdoor learning experiences that fill huge gaps in the education process. Scouting offers opportunities to fill some of these same gaps. The confidence, team-building, independence, and personal responsibility lessons these classes teach are huge relative to the long-term adult skill set needed in life. The peace associated with being in harmony with nature, rather than abusing it, taking it for granted, or being afraid of it is priceless.

    However, there are costs and risks associated with this type of education that are over and above those provided as part of normal public education. This type of experience also requires kids to unplug from multimedia entertainment, do physical work, be uncomfortable from time-to-time as they learn how to deal with weather, be responsible and accountable for their actions both to other group members and nature, and occasionally face danger. All of these things are valuable learning experiences and use to be part of everyday life. I have seen where communities have used this type of education to help troubled kids, but not offered it through public schools to the general population. For outdoor education to take off, the decision makers (parents and voting adults) need to understand the value of the experience and be willing to provide the funding and resources, and accept the risk.

    Sadly, the risks here also involve legal risks. There are those will will choose to sue if their child has a bad experience of some kind, such as an accident or emotional trauma. There will also be imperfect adult leaders that make decisions that are either poor decisions, or unpopular decisions, and because the situations are not as common as decisions made in public schools, they will be challenged. Despite the benefits, outdoor educators are probably not going to be paid very well either, for the risks they take and work they do.

    Perhaps these are some of the hold-backs.
  • May 14 2013: I am not sure what you mean by alternative education, but for most schools it is a matter of priorities.

    Outdoor education does not fit into the budget of most schools.
    Many schools have been forced to cut higher priority subjects like music and art.

    It is not just funds priority, but time as well. How many well funded private schools include outdoor education? Modern society is so complex that education now has too much to cover in just eighteen years. Consequently outdoor activities are considered recreational rather than educational. I suspect this is a mistake. It is hard to imagine a CEO who has had a thorough outdoor education putting his OK on the humongous oil sands project in Canada. Outdoor education has the potential of saving our environment and consequently our own species. Maybe our priorities should change.
  • May 13 2013: I am asking the same question. I run a wildlife conservation program/school and all of our "classes" are held in the rain forest. Learning is expedited, people stay focused and encouraged. As an educator I have never seen such rapid progress. I would like to see more outdoor programs written into the curriculum of public schools. Our interaction with the environment and the pedagogical benefits thereof must first be proven scientifically in order for people to really start believing in the benefits of outdoor classrooms. This is what I hope to prove with my PhD research.
  • thumb
    May 12 2013: Many schools, public and private, have outdoor programs. In some cases the Outdoor program is required and in others optional.

    Normally outdoor educators are contracted as guides and for essential supervision, though teachers at school are involved as well.

    The means of financing the experience varies. There may be fairly substantial fees to participants, but some organizations providing those services have a special fee structure for schools in which the kids cannot afford to pay the typical fees.

    Have you done some research into this?
    • May 13 2013: I have a general knowledge of how outdoor ed. works and the inherent risks and benefits. While I haven't been actively employed as an outdoor educator, I have worked alongside them in outdoor fields and been a student in a National Outdoor Leadership School semester.
      I know there are programs out there and that they help many people, but if this is the case, why isn't Outdoor Education a bigger part of the education revolution?
      • thumb
        May 13 2013: I think others have raised some of the issues, including expense and safety and a greater priority placed on language, math, science, arts, and social studies as things schools have a relative advantage in providing. Physical education is getting more attention again, which offers some of the physical, teamwork, and problem-solving benefits that outdoor programs provide and are typically accessible on or near the school grounds (without needing to pay for buses) even in very urbanized areas.

        I live near a park in medium sized city, and I see school groups there all the time doing either physical activities, nature study, or sketching and writing.
  • thumb
    May 12 2013: i can't say that it isn't

    personally I like to walk a lot, i don't have a car