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Again and again, I have been asked – what exactly is outdoor education? And what does one do there? I would like to give a short outline.

 

What is outdoor education?
Outdoor education can be defined as experiential learning in the outdoors.
What is experiential learning then?
It is not that easy to explain if you have never experienced it. Experiential learning and outdoor education use group experiences or group adventures in order to develop and foster personality and social competency. So it is about personal development of an individual as well as the individual as part of a group.
Nature is the learning environment and the mentor or teacher at the same time.
Every single person as well as the group as a whole is also a teacher.
Outdoor sports (like canoeing, sailing, rafting, white water rafting, climbing, abseiling, caving, high ropes course, low ropes course, cycling, hiking, skiing, …) serve as a medium. This is complemented by diverse methods from adventure and game education as well as theatre pedagogy.
Group dynamics are a big factor, because the group’s self-direction plays a big role in the courses.

 

So is outdoor education just learning something outdoors?
Well, or is experiential learning then just learning through experience?
NO, it is way more than that…
Let’s take the expression apart, then we have:
experiential…
or experience…
What is an experience?
Something special, something extraordinary, something unfamiliar, something unusual.
Experiential learning attempts to pull the participants out of their familiar environment and lets them face physical, emotional and social challenges.
And on the other hand we have the word: learning…
What is learning? When and how do people learn?
The “answer” to that question would take hours and days and would definitely provoke intense discussions due to the huge variety of existing theories.

 

Experiential learning has the approach to experience things through action and reflection and to realize and reflect the experienced. The transfer of what has been learned is very important. Meant is the transfer of the newly learned from the unfamiliar environment to your own world.
Just briefly, I would like to mention some major principles of experiential learning and therefore outdoor education:

  • experiential learning cycle
  • regard all learning styles equally
  • comfort zones model
  • facing challenges
  • playing with perceived risks
  • natural consequences
  • challenge by choice

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