Outdoor Education R&E Center

Environmental Education


Wilderness & Education
On the natural environment's role in education

James Neill
Last updated:
26 Apr 2007

About "Wilderness"

"Wilderness" is stereotypically understood as referring to natural environments.  But wilderness means much more.  It is really about places, spaces, and states which humans identify as having a quality of "wildness" which seems to be about having lack of orderly human influence.  So, wilderness is a term now also used in many ways, such as "political wilderness", "urban wilderness", "emotional wilderness", "intellectual wilderness", etc.

"Wilderness Education"

Wilderness education is a broad term which can be used to refer to educational experiences which are conducted in the wilderness (an outdoor expedition) and/or are about the wilderness (e.g., an indoor class about the biosystem). 

"Wilderness & Outdoor Education"

Outdoor education generally takes place outside of buildings.  But, there is debate about the extent to which wilderness is important in outdoor education programs.  The pro-wilderness camp believes that wilderness is fundamental and essential for outdoor education.  In the other camp, are arguments that do not emphasize wilderness as particularly important or even needed for many of the goals of outdoor education programs to be achieved.

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