Making Connections with Nature: Bridging the Theory - Practice Gap in Outdoor and Environmental Education

By Preston, Lou | Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Making Connections with Nature: Bridging the Theory - Practice Gap in Outdoor and Environmental Education


Preston, Lou, Australian Journal of Outdoor Education


Abstract

In this paper I describe my experience in attempting to assist tertiary students connect with the natural environment through outdoor and environmental education experiences. The paper addresses research conducted with students undertaking an outdoor and environmental education degree and focuses on the pedagogical methods employed in this context. I argue that outdoor and environmental education practitioners may benefit from moving away from a mode of teaching based upon 'generic' methods and look instead to a more local, specific and contextual form of education. By describing an outdoor and environmental education journey in a local, 'ordinary' place and students' experiences in unearthing the stories embedded in this place, I aim to provide some practical strategies to engage young people in a direct and meaningful way. The intention is to broaden the pedagogical possibilities related to facilitating experiences in natural environments and thus contribute to bridging the rhetoric/reality gap in outdoor education.

There are two spiritual dangers of not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace (Leopold, 1987/1949, p. 6).

Aldo Leopold, an American wildlife biologist and conservationist, warned about the separation of humans from the natural world in the 1940s, a message that has been echoed many times since and is perhaps more pertinent today than ever. Living in an increasingly urbanised society, Australians have less opportunity to live on or from the land, to experience (or understand the consequences of) food/energy production or even just to 'be' in a natural environment. This disconnection is cleverly portrayed by cartoonist Michael Leunig who regularly uses the theme of alienation in his pictorial representations of humans as lacking a 'soulful' relationship with the non-human world (Mulligan & Hill, 2001, p. 275).

Environmental philosopher Val Plumwood (2003) extends the concept of disconnection by using the term 'hyper-separation' to describe a Western rationalist culture that treats nature as Other. She explains that the term encompasses more than humans feeling separate from nature but includes a perception that nature is inferior, of a "lower order, lacking any real continuity with the human" (p. 54). Other environmental philosophers suggest that modern, postindustrial society is developing an aversion to nature and this is depicted by a people who are willingly living in built environments, surrounding themselves almost completely with human artefacts (e.g., Livingston, 1994, in Russell, 1999; Midgley, 1989, in Russell, 1999). Many of these writers surmise that a culture that perpetuates this rift between humans and nature (physically, spiritually, intellectually) must take some responsibility for the so-called 'ecological crisis'.

Writers in the field of outdoor and/or environmental education have also described the disconnection of humans from the natural world and have called for a paradigm shift, one which reverses detachment of humans from the non-human world and develops relationships or connections with the natural world (e.g., Martin, 1993; Nettleton, 1993; Brookes, 1994; Cooper, 1996; Higgins, 1996/7; Ellis-Smith, 1999; Russell, 1999; Birrell, 2001; Wattchow, 2001; Curthoys & Cuthbertson, 2002; Cameron, 2003). While there is a shared belief that outdoor and environmental education can assist in countering the human/nature dualism, such influences cannot simply be presumed, and most would acknowledge the need for careful planning and facilitation of the nature experience. I argue in this paper that as practitioners in outdoor and environmental education, we need to move away from a mode of teaching based upon "universalist and decontextualized understandings of outdoor education" (Brookes, 2002, p. 405) and look instead to a more local, specific and contextual education. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Making Connections with Nature: Bridging the Theory - Practice Gap in Outdoor and Environmental Education
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.