WHAT IS OUTDOOR EDUCATION?
Outdoor education, which includes camping, is a broad-based education process that takes place in the open and natural environment, and exposes learners to different types of activities and experiences involving nature study, hiking, gardening, camping, arts, and craft. Through this type of education learners acquire skills, knowledge, and qualities which enhance their enjoyment of life and successful living.
OBJECTIVES OF OUTDOOR EDUCATION
The main objectives of outdoor education are:
- To promote students’ knowledge of their environment and its features or characteristics.
- To promote learners’ interest in and appreciation of the value of outdoor environment.
- To promote student’s ability to preserve and protect the environment.
- To promote students’ acquisition of leadership qualities.
- To enhance students’ ability to live cooperatively as members of society.
- To acquire skills and knowledge use for participation in recreational activities.
- To enhance students’ self-reliance.
- To broaden the learner’s education and his outlook in life.
- To inculcate in learners the spirit of adventure.
- To acquire the qualities of good citizenship.
- To enhance the learner’s problem solving ability.
- To acquire the rules and skills of safe living.
OUTDOOR EDUCATION ACTIVITIES
Outdoor education activities are many and varied. The following are considered in this post:
1) Camping and Camp-craft
Camping involves a group of people, children or adults, staying away from home in the open environment and group living for a period of time in huts, tents, or makeshift shelter. Camp-craft involves the series of skills required for successful camp experience such as skills in constructing huts, setting up tents, building camp fire, and chopping wood etc. Through camping activities participants are exposed to different types of experiences which enhance their knowledge, skills, and values in the spirit of outdoor education.
In a camping programme varieties of learning activities can be organized which include:
a) Environmental studies in which learners observe their environment to understand its natural features and their role in human life. Environmental studies can include studies of the forest, farms, rivers, and so on.
b) Astronomical studies in which learners study the stars and planets with the aid of telescopes and other gadgets.
c) Meteorological studies in which learners study the weather and the factors that influence it as well as the measurement of weather features.
d) Geological studies in which learners engage in the identification of rocks, minerals, soil types and their characteristics.
e) Nature games which include:
- Hide and Seek Game: In a hide and seek game, the leader goes into the bush to hide and the other members of the group go in to search for him after an agreed time interval. The winner is the first person to locate the leader.
- True or False: The group is divided into two teams. One team goes by the name ‘true’ while the other is referred to as ‘false.’The leader makes a statement and asks the group to state whether it is true or false. Points are awarded to the winning group.
- Sound Recording: Learners are to remain quiet for about 3 – 5 minutes and, during this period, they will record all sounds heard during the period. The winner is the one who records the highest number of sounds.
As many games as possible involving nature can be invented to serve this purpose of playing nature games.
f) Citizenship and Leadership Training: Activities that promote good citizenship and leadership qualities may also be organized during camping. These may include man-o-war bay activities, fitness training, life-saving, and safety skills.
In order for a camping programme to be very successful, the following points are important and should be taken into consideration:
- Choosing a proper camp site.
- Developing a useful programme of activities for the period.
- Carrying of enough food as well as such other materials as tents, mats, mattresses, etc.
- Provision for cooking materials such as foodstuffs, pots, stoves, and lighting equipment.
In addition to the above, participants in a camping programme should also possess the ability to:
- build camp fire using firewood;
- use an axe, knife or machete;
- construct huts and tents;
- cook well;
- observe safety rules.
It should be noted that camping activities can take place in areas specifically designated as camps, zoos, gardens, museums, and forests. The important factor in choosing a camp site is that it must possess a natural and open setting.
Hiking is a form of outdoor activity which involves walking chosen distances for a specified purpose. Participants normally engage in hiking to places of interest and these can include farms, monuments, zoos, riversides, and so on. During a hiking exercise, participants can engage in singing, story telling, and other activities which can add to the fun of hiking. Participants should also be adequately dressed. The hiking distance should be measured to suit the physical condition of hikers and this can be increased as they improve in physical fitness. Examples of hiking activities include:
- Treasure hike, in which participants hike to a designated spot to seek a hidden treasure.
- Nature hike, in which participants hike to specific places to observe, gather, and study natural objects that are part of the environment such as trees, animals, physical features, etc.
- Hiking for physical fitness, in which participants walk specified distances to develop physical fitness qualities.
- Moonlight hike, in which participants walk during the moonlight to enjoy the evening.
3) Canoeing and Fishing
Canoeing and fishing are both water activities, and are important outdoor activities.
In canoeing, participants learn how to make use of the canoe. Important skills are paddling, using the paddle shaft, and balancing in the canoe. Learners should conduct canoeing activities under the teacher’s guidance and strictly follow his instruction. They must observe all safety rules. Learners should not be allowed to paddle to canoe into deep water. The teacher should demonstrate the canoeing activities and skills to aid the learners. Again it should be noted that all participants in canoeing should be able to swim. A person who cannot swim should not use the canoe. Each participant should be encouraged to build or construct a paddle-stick for his own use.
The other water-based outdoor activity which has been mentioned earlier is fishing. Fishing is an important skill which should be learned by everyone. Types of fishing include:
- Bait Casting: In this kind, worms or other baits are tied to the hook at the end of a rod. The bait is cast in water and held in a horizontal, vertical, or angular position. The casting is a relaxed activity and the caster should be attentive while he stands at ease. As soon as he feels that the rod is dragged downwards or sideways then it is possible that there has been a catch.
- Net Fishing: Fishing can also be practised using a net. The net is gathered and cast into the water. At regular intervals the net is dragged out of water to check its catches. Pupils should avoid deep water fishing.
4) Class Picnics and Field Trips
Class picnics and field trips can be organized for members of a class as a part of their outdoor education. During class picnics and field trips (which are educative and pleasure trips) participants should choose places of interest to visit. This can include visits to zoos, farms, project sites, factories, sports scenes, and swimming pools. During these occasions participants should be encouraged to observe processes, have fun, ask questions, and make short notes about their experiences. Furthermore, on getting back to base each pupil should be asked to write an essay based on the trip.
Gardening is also an outdoor activity. Through gardening children acquire skills in planting and caring for plants of different types including fruits, vegetables, cereals and so on. Teaching gardening in schools is important because it helps pupils to know how to care for plants even where some of them would have been unable to know how to plant and care for plants because of the constraints of their living environment. In addition to the exposure, learners are also stimulated to develop an interest in caring for other living things, and learn how they are cultivated and the conditions which contribute to their maximum growth and development.
To facilitate the teaching of gardening, it is important for all schools to possess a school garden. Skills which can be learned include ridge construction, planting of crops of different types, harvesting, and storage. Gardening also provides opportunities for pupils to become acquainted with the features of various plants and crops which are cultivated.
6) Free Time Fun
Free time fun activities are engaged in by individuals and each person is free to choose and engage in any form of activity that is of interest to him. These activities may include listening to music, physical recreation, dancing, gardening, fishing, and so on. The guiding rule is that pupils should only engage in activities which make positive contributions to their lives and which are also sources of fun and enjoyment of life. Activities which pose a lot of risks should be avoided.
7) Building Camp Fire
Camp fires have very useful applications. They can be used for cooking, boiling, burning, and for providing warmth for the participants. Some important points to be noted while building a camp fire include:
- Choosing and clearing the fire site.
- Gathering and chopping up the wood.
- Putting the wood together for effective fire output.
- Adjusting the fire to suit the purpose which the fire is required to serve.
- Putting the fire out after use.
- Removing all personal effects from the fire site.
- Avoidance of bush burning.