By Wells, Marcella; Merriman, Tim
Parks & Recreation , Vol. 37, No. 3
"In a discussion of the developments in the field of education that affect outdoor recreation resources, reference is made to outdoor education, which is the term applied to learning experiences in and for the outdoors. In this context, outdoor education is an emphasis in education or a learning climate which: helps develop concepts and insights about the natural environment and man's relationship to it; provides laboratory experiences for more effective learning in some of the essential subject matter areas, enables one to acquire skills with which to enjoy a lifetime of creative living; and gets us back in touch with those aspects of living where our roots were once firmly established.
Learning in the outdoors applies to the educational activities that take place in outdoor settings; while education for the outdoors encompasses the skills and knowledge necessary for satisfying participation in outdoor pursuits. Learning through the use of the outdoors as a laboratory contributes to the phase of outdoor education which might be termed the appreciation arts."
Smith, J.W. 1962. Developments in the Field of Education Affecting Outdoor Recreation Resources. ORRRC Study Report #22: Trends in American Living and Outdoor Recreation (p 135).
The 1962 Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) devoted only minimal attention to education. Only one page (reprinted here) of nearly 200 addressed education in the ORRRC Report to the President. In this editorial, we speak to two major points. First, there have been significant developments in outdoor recreation education since the 1960's. Not only has the goal of education in outdoor recreation changed but there has also been an explosion of educational resources related to outdoor recreation and the environment. Second, although there have been significant developments in outdoor recreation education, there has not been commensurate success in measuring the benefit of these efforts.
Significant Developments in Outdoor Recreation Education
The ORRRC section titled The Outdoors and the Classroom refers to the many ways we communicate with the public in and about the outdoors. The authors of ORRRC suggested that the schools had, by the 1960's, made a promising start in the job of teaching youth about nature. They said that the new emphasis in American education on the natural world was a result of decreased interaction and familiarity with the natural world. Indeed, the industrial revolution removed many from first-hand experiences with nature.
The authors also stated that "the interpretation programs of the National Park Service and of some of the states are good" at stimulating public interest in and enjoyment of nature. They suggested that parks and forests should be more than just space for recreation - that they should also provide walks, talks, exhibits and demonstrations. The goal of outdoor recreation and education according to ORRRC at this time was simply to pique public interest in and enjoyment of nature.
It is true that societal revolutions of the past century (e.g., the service revolution, the technological revolution, and most recently, the electronic revolution) disconnect us from first-hand experiences with nature. And it is true that our schools and parks are ideal institutions for stimulating learning. Today, however, the goal is richer, broader, and more vital. In the past 40 years, the educational goal for both our schools and parks has moved beyond simply stimulating an interest in and enjoyment of nature to one of encouraging personal and meaningful relationships with nature that render an environmentally literate and responsible public. It is increasingly important that all outdoor educators and interpreters work towards increasing public understanding of nature and the outdoors so citizens become impassioned decision makers, change agents, and stewards of the planet. …