Outdoor learning can begin at home: Developing a sense of place
A major part of working with young people is concerned with facilitating the exploration and development of their identities. These identities can be closely bound with place. My identity is closely related to the places that members of my family and I have referred to as ‘home’, places to which I have a sense of belonging. These places have stimulated my development into an outdoor educator and enthusiast. They feed my enthusiasm for adventure, offering physical and creative challenges, as well as providing opportunities for relaxation and reflection.
However, unless we work for an organisation that specialises in informal learning in the outdoor, incorporating outdoor learning into our curricula can be fraught. There are health and safety and insurance issues, as well as the need for addition outdoor specific qualifications. In addition, the costs of venturing to another location can prove prohibitive.
I have recently prepared for a Japanese delegation to the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services. I was to speak about informal learning, outdoor learning and youth work. In seeking common ground and a starting point, I researched aspects of Japanese culture, which might have parallels with or contribute to our work with young people in the UK. I was struck by the concept of ‘huudo”, in which aspects of the cultural landscape support the development of an understanding of and belonging to place. Stories associated with that place and the relationship between human, nature and spirit are interwoven (Kameoka, 2009; Maeda, 2005).
In my work, I often encourage young people to develop their own fictional and factual stories associated with place. They sometimes recall these stories and the positive emotions associated with the story creation, as they reflect on what is happening to them in their lives. This does not necessarily entail travelling to some distant location. I have prompted them to think about how they can make their home location an even better place in which to live. I am conscious that it is too easy to start from a negative stance, hence my choice of words.
Thus, outdoor learning can begin at home. The additional expenses of gaining specific outdoor qualifications, insurance and travel can be avoided. The outcomes might contribute to a shift in attitudes, as the young people explore and develop their identities and associations with place.
Kameoka, Y. (2009) Cultural dimensions of outdoor education in Mt Koya, Japan: Co-existing patterns of universalist and local outdoor education approaches. http://www.latrobe.edu.au/education/downloads/2009_conference_Kameoka.pdf Downloaded 29.09.13Maeda, K. (2005) Community-based outdoor education using a local approach to conservation. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/Australian-Journal-Outdoor-Education/146935733.html Downloaded 29.09.13