Purpose of Outdoor Activities – Bringing Outdoor Education to the Next Level

Purpose of Outdoor Activities – Bringing Outdoor Education to the Next Level

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Recently, I had an interesting meet up with a fellow educator and we had a great chat about the purpose of outdoor activities. She shared that her school uses outdoor activities to develop her students. For example, the school will teach the students sport climbing to not only embed the physical part of the activity but also inter and intrapersonal skills in them.

And so she asked me, “How can we bring climbing, along with other outdoor activities, to the next level?”

Honestly, I was not thinking that she was really exploring way beyond personal and social development of the students. This is because I observe that this happens to be the sole target of schools. Sometimes, teachers will just share that they just want the students to experience the activities which they do not get to try when in school.

To be fair these teachers, they were mainly teaching primary and secondary schools, thus it is understandable that they focus more on the physical aspect of these outdoor activities.

And this friend of mine is teaching in an institution of higher learning. Now I could appreciate her question. There has to other higher order purpose of outdoor activities.

So, back to the main question, “How can we bring climbing, along with other outdoor activities, to the next level?”

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In my opinion, outdoor activities could be used to deliver environmental education. As an outdoor educator, I view outdoor activities as a subset in the entire scope of outdoor education, along with personal and social development and environmental education.

purpose of outdoor activities
Higgins and Loynes, 1997. On the nature of outdoor education.

In other words, through outdoor education, schools can aim towards teaching the physical skills, intra and interpersonal skills and the environment.

In this article, I will attempt to share more about using outdoor education to achieve environmental education. This is especially, at least to me, the importance of environmental education could not be stressed more.

With the alarming state of our environment from the drastic climate change due to melting ice caps, increasing global temperature and spike in carbon dioxide levels, there is every reason to use outdoor activities to teach about the environment.

At this note, I must say that all other subjects, such as physics and geography, should also be geared to teaching about the environment. There has to some form of relevance to the environment.

(I hope to share more how these subjects could be used deliver environmental education in the near future.)

How do we use outdoor activities to teach about the environment?

Sport Climbing Level 2

A simple example will be getting the participants to climb on natural rocks and to get them study about the rocks itself. This may include collecting sample about the rocks and finding out how they have been eroded. Going further, for adult students, the following questions could be posed:

  • How was the rock here a thousand years ago?
  • How have they shifted or eroded?
  • Have they been used for human’s development? What could be the economic value of the rocks?
  • What could have been the environment impact of using the rocks for our purposes?
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If you observe, in order to get the final question, we cannot avoid questions that relate to other subjects. This is a note-worthy as teaching about the environment will get students to consider other subjects. Looking the other way, students will get to see how other subjects are actually related to the environment.

On the grand picture, students will get to think in terms of relationships which is the core foundation of ecological literacy.

(I wrote about ecological literacy for my MSc thesis after being inspired by the awesome experience during that course itself.)

How else could we bring outdoor activities to the next level? Feel free to share your ideas below.

Follow Ahmad Bahktiar:

Outdoor Educator

I'm an outdoor educator and blogger. Outdoors, I teach both technical and experiential courses. Indoors, I blog about the outdoors, environment, health and life! Contact me if you'd like to explore opportunities together, whatever they might be.

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