Why is Outdoor Learning so Important for a Holistic Education?
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Why is Outdoor Learning so Important for a Holistic Education?


While most Woodstock Senior School students were hard at work with exams at the end of term, Grade 7 students went off exploring their environment, themselves, and new ways of learning through an experiential approach to education.

Experiential Education professor Salvatore Vascellaro stresses that for learning to occur in its fullest sense, a palette of rich, interdisciplinary, and frequently kinesthetic experiences directed at a topic of study is necessary.

Take for example a simple dragonfly larva: What if you were to find it living in its cold stream environment whilst having to move along the stream with cold and wet feet, develop observation skills and create a detailed sketch that brings it to life, be responsible for keeping that sketch pegged to your clothing for a number of days, and have to create a theatre performance based on life after the steam for the dragonfly larva?

This is one example of the projects the students worked on during the recent Grade 7 trip to Deolsari Forest in the foothills of the Himalayas for a three-day and two-night wilderness residential programme.

But why is outdoor education such an important part of the holistic education we seek to offer here?

  • It brings together many subject areas including biology and field study, theatre and art as well as incorporating the personal, social and environmental development aims more traditionally associated with outdoor learning.
  • It is a great introduction for students to experience our local environment and spend time outdoors, developing outdoor skills.
  • It encourages students to take account of human activity in the area through engaging with the villagers by asking questions.
  • It challenges students physically and sheds light on building awareness for ecological living.
  • It throws up discussions of all kinds such as having to live together in unfamiliar and less comfortable conditions, the pros and cons of living with or without a television, without internet access, and the benefits of being away from the technical world.

Below are some reflections provided by the grade 7 students when asked to indicate the difference between indoor and outdoor learning from their own experiences:

“When we were outdoors together we are more able to have discussions with our teachers and friends, I was never bored; this is different to indoor education where you have to sit down and not go anywhere, the outdoors gave me more freedom to roam around and explore.” Suryansh, Grade 7 (Team: Water Boatman)

Being outdoors I was able to work with new students such as the day students and I discovered what a Caddis Fly larva was by actually experiencing it, I got to understand it better this way, it was different to watching a video about it or being shown a book about it in school” Tanuj, Grade 7 (Team: Caddis Fly)

Andrew Hepworth Outdoor Educator – Hanifl Centre 

Read more about our outdoor education programme at Woodstock.