Imagine a world in which the only concrete experience is concrete experience - where people grow up in an urban environment with no experience of gardens or farmland or wild areas. For some young people, especially those living in urban poverty, this is reality. Every citizen surely deserves the opportunity to spend time in the natural world? This simple (and minimal) expectation is now enshrined in government legislation which ensures that every child has at least one residential experience in their school years.
Outdoor Learning provides direct contact with the natural world
Environmental issues are of increasing importance in the political agenda, yet many people live an urban life which does not allow them to experience the relationship between their actions and the elements which support life on earth. Outdoor Learning allows participants to develop values and opinions that are informed by first hand experience of the natural world.
Outdoor Learning is a source of powerful learning experiences
Outdoor Learning can be powerful, exciting, inspirational, developmental and rewarding in many ways. The power of Outdoor Learning makes it a valued means for overcoming some of the toughest learning challenges. For example: it can bring about personal breakthroughs for people with learning difficulties; it can help to bring divided communities together; and it can inspire culture change in organisations.
Learners who usually struggle can excel in the outdoor classroom
Outdoor Learning provides such a different climate for learning that people who normally struggle as learners often become motivated and capable learners in the outdoors. Teachers are frequently surprised by the abilities and interest shown by 'poorly performing' students when in the outdoors, and by the extent to which Outdoor Learning has awakened their potential.
Learners who already excel become more versatile learners
Even people who are excellent learners in indoor environments encounter very different learning experiences outdoors. For example, some outdoor programmes are designed to help PhD students become more rounded and employable. But all students benefit from becoming more skilled, rounded and versatile learners. This matters even more in a fast-changing world that needs lifelong learners.
Personal development: "If I can do this, I can do anything!"
Participants of all ages and abilities frequently report personal breakthroughs, especially when taking part in adventurous activities and surprising themselves. "If I can do this, I can do anything!" is the kind of statement that signifies such breakthroughs.
Team development: "If we can do this, we can do anything!"
On many outdoor programmes, and especially on team building programmes, participants discover just how much they can achieve when they work well together. It is also good news for schools, communities or other sponsors when participants' team skills and team spirit continue into the future.
Active citizenship results from a greater sense of connection and responsibility
As change accelerates, many individuals become disconnected from society and feel they cannot use the political process to bring about beneficial changes in their lives and within their communities. Outdoor Learning has helped people to take control of their lives and take a more active part in their communities.
Why Outdoor Learning Matters: the case for Outdoor Learning
Outdoor Learning is an engaging, effective and enjoyable form of learning, whether the emphasis is personal, social or environmental, or is about learning itself. Outdoor Learning provides first hand experience for learning about our natural world. It is also a powerful medium for personal, organisational and cultural change. Many socially useful purposes are readily achieved through Outdoor Learning.
Acknowledgement: The above paragraphs about 'Direct contact with the natural world' and 'Active citizenship' are adapted from the website of The European Institute of Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning (EOE).