Research Paper Title
Outdoor Experiences and Sustainability by Heather E. Prince (2016)
Positive outdoor teaching and learning experiences and sound pedagogical approaches undoubtedly have contributed towards an understanding of environmental sustainability but it is not always clear how, and to what extent, education can translate into action. This article argues, with reference to social learning theory, that role modelling, mentoring and sustainable practice, by outdoor educators and using outdoor experiences, can contribute to pro-environmental action by offering an array of possibilities to engender pro-environmental behaviour. Pro-environmental behaviour is situated on the spectrum towards the realisation of a sustainable ‘lifestyle’, which implies a stronger and more committed intent, but might constitute too radical a shift with implied structural change. Using Cooper’s theoretical framework of ‘awareness, empowerment and commitment’, the place of role modelling through long-term mentoring in real, lived, outdoor environments that embrace pro-environmental behaviour is illustrated but further empirical research is required to substantiate the evidence base.
This article provides an insight on an alternative area to work on in our effort to develop pro-environmental behaviours in learners for the bigger goal of sustainability. While one can find abundant articles on activities that perhaps could promote pro-environmental behaviours, this article is one of the few that focus on the educators themselves, primarily outdoor educators.
I personally agree that outdoor educators are among the few people in the frontline of education that are in the perfect position to influence learners. This is because, speaking from experience as a participant in the past, I myself tend to look up to my camp instructors. Hence, I believe outdoor educators have this given aura which is consciously used could positively influence their participants.
(Personally for me, this article further warrants my MSc thesis where I analysed the preparedness of outdoor educators to develop ecological literacy in Singapore.)
The challenge for outdoor educators to be a role model would be that they have a limited timeframe to show exemplary behaviours to students. This is because they only have the short duration of the outdoor programme to influence learners. Referring to the research works cited in the article, where even teachers ranked significantly low as role models despite their long-term contact with students, outdoor educators have a higher hill to climb if they were to make any impact.
However, the difference between outdoor educators and teachers is that outdoor educators are observed when they are in action in real-life as compared to teachers in a classroom setting. Hence, outdoor educators , despite their small window of opportunity, could have a great advantage to positively influence students.
I look forward to find more articles that could shed more light on how outdoor educators could be role model and mentors in promoting pro-environmental behaviours.
Prince, E. P. (2016), Outdoor experiences and sustainability, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14729679.2016.1244645