Overview of wilderness
and outdoor education literature
different effects for wilderness-based versus non-wilderness based outdoor
Can we justify the damage to wilderness caused by mass
participation in wilderness-based outdoor education programs (e.g., see
Yerkes & Haras, 1997)?
In the following references, you can find links to online
readings examining the role of the natural environment in outdoor education.
Here is a rough guide to what has been found:
There is a substantial literature on leisure and wilderness
which is very relevant to the role of nature in outdoor education -
William Borrie's work is an excellent example and
testament to the potential for integration of leisure research and outdoor
education research. See also Floyd and
Johnson (2002) and McReady (1997).
There is a substantial parks and recreation literature
which examines issues such as the physical impact of human outdoor recreation
on natural environments, satisfaction and other psychological responses of
park users to outdoor recreation and wilderness-based activities, etc. - e.g.,
see Harding, Borrie, and Cole (2000).
There is a rapidly growing and substantial literature now in
ecopsychology which has considerable potential for expanding our
current conceptions of how outdoor education could become more powerful and
relevant to society and nature. e.g., see Segal
There is considerable work on the influence of natural
environments on psychology and health which examines topics such as:
human psychology in extreme environments and conditions
human preferences for (and emotional and physiological to)
different types of landscape scenes
the effects of contact with nature (e.g., viewing nature
scenes, being in a natural environment, contact with animals) on physical
and mental health (an excellent and well-cited overview of research in this
area was written by Frumkin, 2001). In the
same journal, there were two replies to this article, and it was written up
in many media reports (e.g., EarthSpirit, 2001).
There is a reasonable amount of literature exploring the
question about what is environmental education versus outdoor education
(some define the terms as virtually synonymous and others see major
differences) - e.g., see Grant (1998) and
There is a limited amount of academic work on the effects of
outdoor education programs with a deep wilderness philosophy. In
particular, for example, there is a considerable range of camps and outdoor
programs in North America with a focus of survival, tracking and hunting
skills. There are also several outdoor education type programs which
utilize indigenous-type methods, such as vision quests (e.g.,
Foster-Riley & Hendee, 1999). Also
visit the Indigenous
Knowledge & Rites of Passage Outdoor Education page.
There is a limited amount of academic research work exploring
the nature-environment interaction in outdoor education -
Norm McIntyre's and
Lea Scherl's work are notable exceptions.
Staff working in the outdoor education and nature tourism at
Latrobe University, Australia have generated a sizeable literature on
outdoor education, however very little is available online. However, a
bibliography of recent Latrobe articles is available. Note there are
four main authors about wilderness in outdoor education who have emerged:
I recommend the work of Peter
Martin to any student interested in better understanding how and why
outdoor education should try to nurture the relationship that humans have
Almut Beringer articles examine and explore the
spiritual and healing role of nature in outdoor education.
Andrew Brookes is masterful at asking and examining
some simple but profound questions about foundational concepts in outdoor
education, including the perceived and actual role of nature and wilderness
for humans in outdoor education.
Deidre Slattery writes about the relations between
environmental education, ecopsychology, and outdoor education.
The work of retired university professor Brian Nettleton
(University of Melbourne) is intriguing -- it is somewhat quaint and almost
childish in times with his delight in nature, Brian has worked in and explored
connections to some interesting pieces of theoretical literature (such as
Apter's reversal theory and the literature on the effects of different
landscape scenes). Currently, none of Brian
Nettleton's work is available on the net. The most accessible of his
articles are those in the Australian Journal of Outdoor Education and the
proceedings of past National Outdoor Education Conferences held in Australia.
Personal testaments about nature and outdoor
experiences provide valuable qualitative and phenomenological insight into the
human-nature interaction. To this end, Graham
Ellis-Smith's (2003) autiobiographical reflection on a life deeply
connected with land through a discovery of indigeneity, I think is profound.
James Neill has also provided various reflective
writings about the interactions between humans, nature, journeys and
adventure. Also see Gorrell's ecopsychological
viewpoints on a Costa Rican Outward Bound program.