The top three benefits outdoor education can have for young people
Ali Logan from Raleigh’s training team shares his experience as an Outdoor Educator and the top three benefits outdoor education can have for young people.
Experiential learning – Outdoor education allows people to come up with their own solutions to practical problems. For many people this is a huge breath of fresh air having been through a rigidly structured education system that focuses on exam results. Experiential learning is about making mistakes and learning from them. There’s no better way of figuring out the best solution to a problem than trying several and seeing which works best! This approach usually means we remember the solution, the next time we face a similar problem.
Young people who have been told for years that they are not bright or have no potential can often find themselves excelling at practical skills. Witnessing the realisation in young people that life is not all about what you can write in an hour-long exam is one of the best things about working in outdoor education.
Resilience – I think this is one of the most important things that can be developed through outdoor education. Resilience is not a skill; it is not memorised knowledge; it is not something that can be taught in a classroom. It is an attitude and approach to life that can only be developed through challenging experiences. Outdoor education can provide these experiences in a safe way, allowing young people to develop in a challenging but supportive environment.
Mental wellbeing – Being in the outdoors is essential to mental wellbeing. We have become so disconnected from the natural world, many of the stresses we have are due to living in an environment we were not designed for. Our world is too fast-paced, too loud, too light, too comfortable. Being in a natural outdoor environment can hugely contribute to reducing the stresses caused by our modern ways of life. This is not just a hippy theory, research has been done and quantifiable evidence found that this is the case. Stanford University have published a short video on their research. There are several published academic papers on this too, such as this one from an American Medical Journal.
I have personally seen how even short periods in the outdoors can lower stress indicators in young people. When removed from the urban environment, electronic devices and disconnected from social media, people tend to be less anxious, less aggressive and less confrontational. When you add to this the sense of achievement and satisfaction you can get through outdoor education I believe it has a hugely positive impact on mental wellbeing.