Outdoor Education? Really?

Well hello there!

This blog will be about why I chose to do Outdoor Education as a degree, and why I believe that it is such an important subject. Gonna throw some factoids at you to make you think that I’m smart. Research from 2000 found out that students in environmental based schools (this is a school where a lot of lessons are mainly taught using the natural environment) achieved higher grades than 72% of mainstream school kids and some research from 1997 found that 96% of students and teachers can remember school trips to outside locations many years after they have left education.

Outdoor Education is a new subject, in Wales it has been a part of core curriculum since 2005, and in England it has been since last year. Not a lot of people really get what the subject is about, and many don’t see the point. Last year people from other degrees at my university jokingly said that we just do a degree in camping, and yes, we do in fact go on a lot of camping trips and go kayaking and climbing weekly as part of the degree. Some people in my family have even said that it doesn’t seem like a degree, and I understand what they’re saying. I really do. There is very little formal lecture time within classrooms, so what is it actually all about?

I remember four years ago I climbed my first ever mountain, which also happened to be the tallest mountain in the UK in winter conditions. Back then I really didn’t understand the reason for the subject existing, and I thought that it was just the kids that were a pain in the butt in schools got to do it. I can remember quite fondly climbing up over the ridge of the summit and being so blown away with not only the view, but what I had achieved. Having being told that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish much, or that I wouldn’t be able to cope with a lot while I was growing up had really had a massive affect on my confidence and esteem levels. I had started to believe that I would never be able to achieve anything because I was too weak, physically and mentally. Summiting that mountain changed that massively.

I still cannot get over this view

Outdoor Education has strong links with mental health, as studies show being exposed to nature for periods of time, like on a camping trip, is so beneficial for people suffering from depression. Rock climbing is used as therapy for people suffering from anxiety. Just connecting with nature is good for your mind, but it is also beneficial for your body also, as studies have shown that running in forests and mountains is better for you than running on a treadmill in a gym. There are hundreds of companies around the UK that use the outdoors for therapy.

It also has an impact on an individuals behaviour, and helps people with social interactions. For example, my old school used outdoor education within the curriculum to teach troublesome kids the key bits of the curriculum in a fun and engaging way by dangling them off a cliff on a 55mm thick rope. In schools in Wales, maths lessons are being taught outside, as is science. This is because kids retain the information better.

In short Outdoor Education is slowly becoming the future of mainstream education, and although a lot of it is climbing trees and camping, its been shown that children, teenagers and adults all benefit in so may different ways and learn so many important life skills that they will need in the real world, such as problem solving, team working and communication skills. To many it might just seem like a laugh, and it is but the benefits for the subject are staggering. People ask the same questions about subjects like Drama and Dance, and the main response is that for many it is an escape, or a coping method, and some of the stuff you end up doing is stupid, but so fun at the same time!

Stupid, but beneficial!

P.S. Don’t forget to be awesome!

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