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Wilderdom Vignettes

My Philosophy:
5 Musings on Education & Nature

James Neill
Last updated:
27 Aug 2004


Musing 1: Humans are nature

Musing 2: The need for real adventure

Musing 3: The instructor plays a critical role

Musing 4: The need for theory

Musing 5: Education should strive to be eco-connected, eco-sustainable, & eco-productive

Musing 1: Humans are nature.  Human beings evolved over a long period via intimate connection with the forces of nature.  However, the center of consciousness recently moved inside, away from direct encountering of nature.  Education, in order to be genuine, must include experiential guidance through the fundamental laws of nature.  Otherwise the human being, as adaptable as the species is, is likely to suffer from modern day ills due to overly-urbanized, industrialized living.  For more, go to "A Psycho-evolutionary theory of outdoor education".

Musing 2: The need for real adventure.  We need brave outdoor education with real challenge.  Genuinely adventurous outdoor education programs, however, are increasingly difficult to find in an increasingly "risk averse", litigious society.  Outdoor education must be careful of "selling out"  to weakening public mentality about taking risks and participating in genuinely challenging adventure activities.  For more, go to "Where has the adventure gone?  Bringing risk back into outdoor education".

Musing 3: The instructor plays a critical role.  The instructor of outdoor education experiences plays a critical role, as does the program designer.  One person can facilitate a transformative experience, whilst another facilitates a traumatic experience.  Most experiences are inbetween.  There are many pitfalls for an instructor, such as personal issues which must be worked through. Instructing an outdoor education program is an infinitely difficult challenge.  It is a great responsibility to care for the souls and spirits of others in the wilderness.  In this sense, the instructor also has a kind of shamanistic responsibility.  For more on this topic, go to "Instructor effectiveness in outdoor education".

Musing 4: The need for theory.  There is a lack of good quality theory which can be used as a basis for understanding the phenomena associated with outdoor education programs, and the place of outdoor education in society.  And there is nothing so practical as a good theory.  To help address this situation, see the suggest theories -- Outdoor Education Theory.  Plus, I have proposed a synthesis of existing outdoor education theories, to suggest a scaffold for future investigations.  For more, go to a systems framework for conceptualizing outdoor education theory.

Musing 5: Education should strive to be eco-connected, eco-sustainable, and eco-productive.  There are rich connections for learning in and through the natural environment.  For example,  well designed, adventure-based activities rarely fail to engage learners and provide genuine opportunities for facilitating growth and development.  But this must be a sustainable, if not ecologically productive exercise, e.g., learners could be immersed in understanding permaculture principles by living perhaps for the first time in a sustainable, educational lifestyle.  In education, eco-sustainability is not enough -- strive for eco-productivity.  For more on this topic, go to Wilderdom: Living simply in nature.