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Outdoor Education Theory

The Elephant in the Black Box:
A Parable About Outdoor Education
James Neill
Last updated:
06 Jun 2004

The process of outdoor education has been described as a 'Black Box'.  In other words, when participants enter an outdoor education experience, they step into a black box, and then after the experience, step out of the box, without us really knowing what happens in the middle. 

"The process of outdoor education has been described as a Black Box."

Many people are reasonably content with not knowing what happens in the black box, because they are satisfied with what they see of participants when they emerge.

Some people think they know what’s in the box - and they’ll tell you, yes, I’ve seen inside the black box, and I know that it is “Affiliation with nature that makes people change”.  Another says, “Its because participants learn self-responsibility and self-discipline”.  Another says, “The outdoors brings people together and the social interaction helps them grow”.  And yet another says, “That’s all garbage, people just get a thrill out of doing something they’ve never done before”, and so on.      Next....