Key concepts employed
in outdoor education
- including wilderness, nature, adventure and recreation philosophy
- especially experiential education, particularly the work of John
- especially the humanistic psychology and personal growth movement
education - philosophy generated by outdoor educators and those
studying outdoor education
- in education, society, culture, politics, & outdoor education
-When studying the philosophy of outdoor education, it is important
to note outdoor education has several, related cousins:
leisure and recreation
camping or summer camps
Philosophy of the Outdoors, Wilderness, Nature, Adventure and Recreation
ever since humans evolved as a species, they appear to have had
both a love and a hate of nature, of the hardship, yet comfort it
offers. Hence, perhaps our current dilemmas of depending on and
having an affinity with nature, yet in constant struggle with finding
a balance (see socio-cultural history of outdoor education).
the course of evolution, humans also developed a complex psychological
and philosophical relationship with nature, which has emerged in
many forms indigenously and then during civilizations. Love of nature
and struggle with nature through experience comes through in all
cultures, whether artistically, religiously, educationally, or therapeutically.
Environment, Nature, & Ecopsychology in Outdoor Education
knowledge in Outdoor Education
Philosophy of Education, especially Experiential Education
information about Experiential education philosophy.
of Psychology, especially the Human Growth Movement
outdoor programs (whether they realize it or not) subscribe to what's
known as "third force psychology", also known as the human
potential or growth movement. Initially, psychology focused on the
psychodynamics of humans (i.e., Freud and all that id, ego, super-ego
stuff). That was first force psychology around the turn of the 20th
century. Then in the 1930's-1950's there was a philosophical pendulum
swing towards taking more notice of behavior rather than dreams
and inner psychic urges. This second force psychology was known
as behaviorism and the idea that humans are like animals and they
can be trained through punishment, reward, and modeling (observer
others and getting vicarious punishments and rewards) to perform
in the 1960's, the human potential or human growth movement emerged
with a philosophical emphasis on the idea that people are inherently
capable and valuable and that they can realize their potential through
receiving positive regard from others and sharing their thoughts
and feelings. From this movement emerged personal and self development
philosophies and in the 1980's and 1990's was often combined with
alternative therapies generally called "new age" approaches.
the end of the twentieth century, the different forces of psychology
had loosely come together with a new emphasis, roughly emphasizing
cognitive (the role of thoughts), social psychology (the role of
society), and individual differences (the role of intelligence,
personality, and constructs such as coping and resilience).
education philosophy generally emphasize third force psychology.
Some particular areas of interest are:
growth movement philosophy (Maslow, Rogers, et. al)
encounter movement (e.g., read about Encounter groups)
risk, challenge, and coping philosophy (for example Lazarus &
Folkman's transtheoretical model of stress, appraisal and coping)
for change (Prochasta & DiClemente)
Wilber's integral psychology offers a holistic developmental philosophy
of outdoor education per se
prominent philosophies of outdoor education per se have evolved:
Hahn's Outward Bound philosophy, based on his diagnosed ills of
modern youth and society, and his educational antidotes
Mortlock's adventure paradigm
Priest and Mike Gass' work on facilitation models
Bowles's post-modernist critiques
of postmodernism in education, society, culture, and politics
information on Post-modernism and Outdoor Education.
History of Major Philosophies
-The philosophical origins of outdoor education can be traced back
as far as Greek philosophy which sought to understand the nature
of self and the nature of society. Indeed, it is often the Greeks
to whom is credited the first modern forms of organized participation
in adventure for the sake of character growth. Interestingly, for
example, Alexander the Great studied with Aristotle and on his first
expeditions included a group of scholars as part of his team.
other philosophers who engaged in understanding the human psyche,
particularly in relation to direct experience and to nature, are
also credited with influencing the outdoor education movement. Nature
philosophers such as John Muir and Henry David Thoreau laid important
foundations, particularly in North America, for example. But it
is probably the psychological philosopher, William James and educational
philosopher, John Dewey whom really gave the modern philosophical
clear impetus and whose philosophies can be seen as helping to directly
justify the pursuit of outdoor education methodologies.
effects of Greek philosophy, nature philosophers and James and Dewey
can be seen in the writings and speeches of founders of the modern
outdoor education movement. For example, Kurt Hahn, founder of Outward
Bound, was well known to have been significantly influenced by reading
Plato's "Republic"; and clearly also draws from John Dewey
who, in turn, drew on the work of William James.
get a quick online introduction to William James, read "The
Moral Equivalent of War". This is a social and political philosophical
paper in which James argues that there are some positive benefits
to training for, and participating in war, and that some "moral
equivalent" such as national service be developed. Kurt Hahn
later picked up on this in promoting Outward Bound as a moral equivalent
of war. Read more about William James.
best known work by John Dewey, as far as outdoor education philosophy
is concerned, is "Experience and Education" (go to a 500
word summary of this book). From the summary you can link to Dewey's
classic "My Pedagogic Creed" which states many beliefs
which underlie the beliefs held by outdoor educators. --> read
further about the philosophy of experiential education.
in Adventure Education
-Axiomatic issues in adventure education should be examined in more
depth, particular during significant stages of a fields evolution.
Adventure education, in its modern form, is well over
50 years old. It seems timely at the beginning of the 21st century
to reflect upon trends and issues influencing adventure education
programming and to consider the underlying, seemingly perennial
nature of fundamental questions.
talks about axioms, the central hunches or beliefs upon which the
whole box and dice rest. Adventure education should also be in the
habit of making apparent, and cogitating upon, its axioms. What
fundamental assumptions do the theories and practices of adventure
education base themselves?
out the territory of philosophical assumptions that are the architecture
of outdoor education is a significant task, and few, if any, could
claim to have tackled the task comprehensively and head on. A few
names come to mind, as worthy of consideration Jasper Hunt
and Steve Bowles, for example. Such thinkers, however, would probably
be the first to argue that we need deeper examination of the fundamental
assumptions in order to consider possible futures and ways forward
for adventure education. I appreciate the work of Jasper Hunt on
ethical issues in the adventure education setting and Steve Bowles
questioning of the positivistic limitations of the predominantly
North American theoretical and philosophical views on adventure
the potentially axiomatic issues that could be considered for closer
philosophical examination in adventure education are the roles,
challenge, risk, safety, nature, psychological aspects, the leader,
and facilitation in adventure education.
-Whilst studying the philosophical origins and issues in outdoor
education today is a useful foundation, I encourage people to formulate
their own philosophical views. We must be aware that the philosophical
writing in outdoor education is sparse and somewhat impoverished,
so it cannot be all that well relied upon. Thus, there is a need
for grounded philosophies to be generated by those directly involved
with outdoor education. What's more, we must also realise that philosophical
shifts have occurred in the conduct of outdoor education and adventure
programming in recent decades.
philosophical watertightness and eloquence of novice-generated philosophies
may lack somewhat in academic integrity, but I have found the raw
passion of many student's philosophies to be significant in challenging
and shaping my own philosophy, and for that I am very grateful.
And these personal philosophies tend to guide practice far more
strongly than ivory tower philosophies.
the terms and their uses are the following: 'Environmental Education'
refers to education about the total environment, including population
growth, pollution, resource use and misuse, urban and rural planning,
and modern technology with its demands upon natural resources. Environmental
education is all-encompassing, while outdoor education is seen by
some to relate to natural resources and not to include the wide
sense of the world environment. Many people, however, think of outdoor
education in its broadest sense and prefer the term outdoor/environmental
Education' is the wise use of natural resources. It is not usually
concerned with preservation, recreation, or human relations and
as such is narrower than outdoor education. The use of this term
has decreased since the 1960s. 'Resident Outdoor School' is the
process of taking children to a residential camp during school time
for a period of usually 3 to 5 days for the purpose of extending
the curriculum through learning in the outdoors. This process was
originally called camping education. 'Outdoor Education' means a
broad spectrum of outdoor activities participated in during leisure
time purely for pleasure or some other intrinsic value. Included
are hiking, swimming, boating, winter sports, cycling, and camping.
Pursuits' are generally non-mechanized, outdoor recreation activities
done in areas remote from the amenities of telephone, emergency
help, and urban comforts. 'Adventure Education' refers to activities
into which are purposely built elements perceived by the participants
as being dangerous. Adventure activities include such things as
rope courses, white water rafting, mountaineering, and rock climbing
(under qualified instruction).
Education' refers to learning by doing or experience. Many experiential
education activities are synonymous with adventure activities and
outdoor pursuits; however, experiential education can also mean
any form of pragmatic educational experience. 'Environmental Interpretation'
is a term usually associated with visitor centers administered by
national parks or forest service centers. The term refers to a technique
used to help visitors understand the meanings of the phenomena on
display, while simmultaneously whetting the curiosity for more information.
Education' and 'Nature Recreation' are learning or leisure activities
related to natural resources. The terms were used from the 1920s
to the 1950s and were usually isolated, individual activities using
natural resources for equipment and facilities, and involving knowledge