Research Paper Title
Nature-based Excursions: School Students’ Perceptions of Learning in Natural Environments by Roy Ballantyne & Jan Packer (2002)
Increasingly, environmental educators are incorporating visits to natural areas into their environmental learning programmes for school students. This paper investigates school students’ expectations regarding environmental education experiences in natural areas and the attitudinal and behaviour changes they report as a result of their involvement in such programmes. Questionnaire responses from 580 students aged 8–17 years confirmed that learning in natural environments is attractive to students and has an important impact on their attitudes towards the environment, their desire to look after the environment, their behaviour in natural areas and their household environmental practices. It is concluded that combining observation with instruction is a powerful teaching strategy, especially when this allows students to understand the impact of human action on wildlife and natural habitats.
This research looked into understanding the perceptions of school students on nature-based excursions thus shedding light to fellow outdoor environmental practitioners, teachers and educators when planning future environmental programmes. This research gives some direction on how programmes could be more learner-centric and cater to the need and preference of students.
Educators can leverage on simple visits to the natural environment instead of sophisticatedly planned programmes. In addition, the research found that worksheets do not appeal to students. These findings suggest that simple programmes work and students prefer the freedom to explore.
Giving students the room to explore will allow them to make personal observations of the flora and fauna. Care must be taken to not interpret the research finding as giving students full autonomy during the visit. There should still be some form of instruction given to direct the students’ attention and subsequently allow them to practice their observation instead of recording skills.
This research also reduces the pressure on educators to be well-versed in nature. Coherent with my MSc thesis findings, feeling ill-equipped on nature may cause educators to be less forthcoming to share about the environment. Hence, the research finding suggests that educators could take on a more facilitative instead of instructing or teaching approach.
Ballantyne, R. & Packer, J. (2002). Nature-based Excursions: School Students’ Perceptions of Learning in Natural Environment. International Research I Geographical and Environmental Education, 11(3), (pp. 218-236)http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10382040208667488