Updated: Sep 24
The future of outdoor learning (or learning outside the classroom) is likely to be shaped by a variety of factors, including changes in technology, environmental concerns, and social trends.
What is Outdoor Learning?
While the term outdoor education is still in common usage, there has been a general shift in recent years towards the use of more contemporary terms including outdoor learning or learning outside the classroom. This change in terminology reflects broader changes in educational philosophy in the field of outdoor education from a didactic (instructional) approach to a more holistic (student-centred) approach with greater focus on cross-curricular learning and exploring the world (and ourselves) through self-discovery. I generally prefer to use outdoor learning as a simple and succinct term to describe active learning outdoors.
Here are 5 potential ways outdoor learning will evolve in the future:
1. Increased Emphasis on Sustainability & Environmental Education
With growing concerns about climate change and environmental degradation, outdoor learning is likely to place a greater emphasis on sustainability and environmental education in the future. This could include activities such as studying the impact of human behaviour on ecosystems, learning about renewable energy sources, and participating in conservation projects. This is a trend we are already seeing as outdoor education evolves to meet the needs to the future.
2. Incorporation of Technology
While outdoor education traditionally emphasises hands-on, experiential learning, technology may play an increasingly important role in the future. For example, virtual reality and augmented reality could be used to create immersive outdoor experiences for students who may not have access to certain environments. Additionally, GPS and other location-based technologies could be used to enhance navigation and outdoor safety. This is something that causes contention as many would like to limit the use of technology in outdoor education.
3. Integration With Academic Subjects
As educators seek to create more interdisciplinary learning experiences, outdoor learning may become more closely integrated with academic subjects such as science, history, and literature. This could involve activities such as conducting field research, exploring historical sites, and reading literature that relates to the natural world. Things have already been moving in this direction for a while as schools realise the potential of cross-curricular learning outside the classroom.
4. Increased Diversity & Inclusivity
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need to make outdoor learning more accessible and inclusive. In the future, outdoor education programs may continue to prioritise diversity and inclusivity by creating more opportunities for underrepresented groups to participate, addressing issues such as cultural sensitivity and disability access, and providing support for students who may face barriers to outdoor learning.
5. Increased Emphasis on Mental Health & Wellbeing
As mental health issues become more prevalent in society, outdoor education programs may focus more on promoting mental health and wellbeing. This may involve incorporating mindfulness and meditation into outdoor activities, promoting stress management and self-care, and providing resources for students who may be struggling with mental health issues. There are already promising signs this is happening and this shift is likely to continue as educators, parents and students become more aware about mental health and wellbeing.
Overall, the future of outdoor learning is likely to be shaped by a variety of factors, but it will continue to provide unique opportunities for students to learn and grow in natural environments.