Outdoor/Experiential Education (OEE) has been around in one form or another since the late nineteenth century. As with other forms of education, it has been subject to many different and often changing opinions as to what its scope and purpose should be.
However, numerous studies conducted since the 1990s have shown that integrating OEE with the everyday learning experience of pupils, including pre-trip lessons, in-trip reflection, link building to the classroom curriculum and post-trip reflection (including a review of pre-trip expectations), vastly improved outcomes. Increased self-esteem, confidence and team skills are expected of OEE, but with good links to the curriculum, knowledge, understanding and skills increase across a range of subjects.
‘Experience’ is at the pedagogical heart of the curriculum in areas of physical, environmental, and health and wellness education. The importance of learning through ‘hands on’ experience is also found in the science laboratories at schools, constructivist pedagogies in mathematics and science, the studio for artistic creations, field trips for social educators and in the competencies developed by vocational educators.
As expected, the most obvious impacts are seen in geography, history and science, but clear improvement is often also achieved in numeracy, literacy, art and communication and interpersonal skills. By the end of a week’s program, students will have been exposed to experiences that connect the classroom to the real world.