Outdoor Education Quotes
About outdoor education & by famous outdoor educators

Last updated:
11 Dec 2005

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Mark Twain

Currently, we have pseudoeducation; what we need is psychoeducation.
- James Neill

Challenge is what makes men. It will be the end when men stop looking for new challenges.
- Sir Edmund Hillary

Change and growth take place when a person has risked themselves and dares to become involved in experimenting with their own life.
- Herbert Otto

Do you know a cure for me? Why yes, he said, I know a cure for everything. Salt water. Salt water? I asked him. Yes, he said, in one form or another, sweat, tears or the salt sea.
- Isak Dinesen

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Men, like rivers become crooked by following the line of least resistance.
- Edvard Raasted

The value of experience is not in seeing much but in seeing wisely.
- Sir William Osler

Life sure is easy on a raft, ain’t it Huck?
- Mark Twain

Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you. Security is the denial of life.
- Germaine Greer

The experience of helping a fellow man in danger, or even of training in a realistic manner to be ready to give this help, tends to change the balance of power in a youth's inner life with the result that compassion can become the master motive.
- Kurt Hahn

Risk, there is no real living without it. Die we all must, but try to knock all risk out of our lives and we lock ourselves tighter and tighter into a safe, comfortable, deadly box, and we die too, without ever having lived.
- Alex Noble

When it's getting dark, you're miserable and the task at hand seems endless, then this is the time to dig your sense of humour out from the bottom of your pack, wear it on your spirit and lighten your load.
- Carolyn Birmingham

The art of teaching is the art of answering questions and saying enough but not too much.
- John Holt

Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the mountains and the stars up above. Let them look at the beauty of the waters and the trees and flowers on earth. They will then begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.
- David Polis

Risk is essential. There is no growth or inspiration in staying within what is safe and comfortable. Once you find out what is best, why not try something else?
- Alex Noble

May neither drought nor rain nor blizzard disturb the joy juice in your gizzard! And may you camp where wind won’t hit you, where snakes won’t bite and bears won’t git you.
- Anonymous

A journey is a person in itself, no two are alike. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.
- John Steinbeck

Do not try to satisfy your vanity by teaching a great many things. Awaken people’s curiosity. It is enough to open minds, do not overload them. Put there just a spark. If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will catch fire.
- Anatole France

I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life; living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness out of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience.
- Henry David Thoreau

But if adventure has a final and all embracing motive it is surely this:
We go out because it is in our nature to go out, to climb mountains and to sail the seas, to fly to the planets and plunge into depths of the oceans. By doing these things we make touch with something outside or behind, which strangely seems to approve our doing them. We extend our horizon, we expand our being, we revel in the mastery of ourselves which gives an impression, mainly illusory, that we are masters of the World. In a word, we are men and when man ceases to do these things, he is no longer man.
- Wilfred Noyce

Great things are done when men and mountains meet;
This is not done by jostling in the street.
- William Blake, Notebooks (1793)

In a very real sense, we are all adventurers. Conceived by chance in a moment of ecstasy, born in pain, our living days are torn between the aspiration of hope and exigencies of necessity. And on death we journey into yet another unknown.
- Joseph Nold

Let your walks now be a little more adventurous.
- Henry David Thoreau

Now I see the secret of making the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
- Walt Whitman

The most important education is that which leads to personal survival.
- W. I. Thomas

An adventure is simply a well planned trip gone awry.
- Anonymous

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.
- Paul Dudley White

That which ought and can best be taught inside the classroom should there be taught, and that which can best be learned through experience dealing directly with native materials and real life situations outside the school should there be learned.
- Julian Smith, 1943, Outside the Classroom, The Educational Forum, 7(4), 363

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves.
- André Gide

Let us start with an understanding of outdoor education which is not bounded by common definitions. Let us imagine a pure, theoretical elixir which has no detectable chemical qualities, a pure homeopathic. When applied, it has infinitely perfect effects. All approaches to human healing, growth and sustenance might strive to be as such, a perfect supplement to human experience; so too might be the goal of outdoor education.
- James Neill, My Philosophy of Outdoor Education

In my daily task I draw on my Antarctic experience.  If the work is important enough I do not knock off because I feel tired; one’s exhaustion point is a very long way past fatigue point.  I think I have developed a greater capacity for thoroughness and I am more appreciative of the value of proper planning.  Possibly the two most valuable things my expedition years gave me were self-confidence and persistence.  Persistence allied with patience will overcome most difficulties.
- Dr. Phillip Law, a former member of the Australian Antarctic Team, speaking about the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme

And what joy, think ye, did they feel after the exceedingly long and troublous ascent?- after scrambling, pulling, pushing lifting, gasping, looking, hoping, despairing, climbing, holding on, falling off, trying, puffing, loosing, gathering, talking, stepping, grumbling, anathematising, scraping, hacking, bumping, jogging, overturning, hunting, straddling, - for know ye that by these methods alone are the most divine mysteries of the Quest revealed?
- Prof. Norman Collie, Scottish Mountaineering Journal, 1894

As editor of Accidents in North American Mountaineering since 1974, Williamson warned that bad preparation, not the mountain or the weather, causes deaths and accidents.  "There's no such thing as bad weather," Williamson said. "It's weather. It's what you get."  "The leading cause of accidents is trying to stick to a schedule and trying to please other people," he added. "You don't climb up something you can't climb down."
- (Pitt News article)

The 'death consequence' removes all the other forces, the lesser motivations.  They fall away and then there's just that primary motivation, which is staying alive.  It's so pure.
- Dean Potter, free soloist rock/ice climber

 You can discover more in an hour of play than you can in a lifetime of conversation
- Unknown

Walk into the woods. Keep walking. Walk off tracks. Do not plan where you are going. Take whatever directions appeal in the moment. Keep walking. When (without realizing) you are lost, look into the eyes of the dragon, then your adventure begins.
- Tom Watercrag, "Chucking Out Agendas and Thriving Again"

First it is a challenge. Secondly you have to learn to prepare meticulously, for your life may depend on the thoroughness and extent of your planning. You have to get off your tail and spur yourself to get going. You have to leave your comfortable slot and go out where things are rough. You have to push into the background the worry of the less likely hazards and make some bold judgements about the more probable ones.

You learn not to be frightened by fear. You discover what a fine piece of machinery the human body is and that it can take a tremendous amount of stress before it breaks down. You learn to make decisions and gradually you find your make fewer and fewer mistakes. Your confidence grows and you discover human resources which are ready to be called upon in time of future crises. You learn something about human frailties and develop sympathy for those weaker or less competent than yourself’; you learn to make a team out of group of individuals.

Adventurous experiences out-of-doors are perceived to kindle the enthusiasm of the young, to develop their concern for others, for their community and for the environment. Such experiences provide the means of self-discovery, self-expression and enjoyment which are at once both stimulating and fulfilling.

It thus emerges that, for young people and adults alike, Outdoor Adventure is perceived as a vehicle for building values and ideals, for developing creativity and enterprise, for enhancing a sense of citizenship, and for widening physical and spiritual horizons.”
- Lord Hunt of Llanfair Waterdine, KC, CBE, DSO

Adventure education is a recent phenomenon in the widespread business of teaching and learning. Its emergence has, ironically, coincided with the decline of the wilderness resource upon which it depends. This is not surprising since the reason people now program “adventure” is because it is no longer a normal part of life. Humans sought for millennia to subdue wilderness. That process was dangerous, uncomfortable, and often fatal. Now that wilderness seems to be conquered, humans miss the challenges the struggle provided. They recognize the values provided by that struggle, values not appreciated then and not now available in the normal course of life. So, in compensation, they venture forth in growing numbers in adventure sports and even program for their youth.
- Miles, 1990, p.327


Kurt Hahn

Paul Petzoldt

Willi Unsoeld