Background

Background of the LTTC on Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning

The practice of outdoor education has been an active part of non-formal education for years, and due to its interactive character it has experienced many stages of development: both in theoretical, conceptual, pedagogical and in practical, national and case-to-case ways. The term ‘outdoor education’ has been defined and used in many ways. Some time ago outdoor education was used as a synonymous with environmental education and outdoor recreation. The term, however, has transformed itself from environmental education to broader meanings and now it is frequently applied to programs or activities that can be, and usually are, conducted in the out-of-doors, and implying an interaction between the participant and the outdoor environment. The general essential characteristics of outdoor education nevertheless have stayed the same. It occurs in the out-of doors, it has its participants directly involved in the activity, it involves the interpretation of original objects, it defines relationships rather than reciting individual, apparently isolated facts, it involves as many senses as possible and it invites participation because activity is perceived as being interesting, challenging and/ or even fun. So, outdoor education activities now seek to develop values relating to group work (in-group versus out-group), leadership and self-esteem.

When it comes to experiential learning, there are quite many reliable theoretical concepts and frameworks one can refer to, probably the most mentionable of which are those developed by Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) and continuing with D. Kolb, C. Rogers, J. Dewey, and others.

On the one hand many discussions on those concepts have taken place, but on the other hand, practice of experiential learning has experienced a unique growth and development.

Gaining more recognition and popularity for non-formal education and youth work, different methods of experiential learning had been developed, used and adopted to be implemented in framework of outdoor education as well as in other kinds of youth work activities. As spread of information has valuably increased, experiential learning methods have become an extremely popular method for different kinds of youth activities. This development has both positive and negative impact on experiential learning quality, as youth work, training and youth exchange praxis in Europe unfortunately shows that experiential learning methods are being used in an unsatisfactory way, and are more likely to become ‘games’ than properly designed, adopted, run and accordingly evaluated learning experiences. Therefore this training course is designed aiming at quality and applicability of experiential learning methods, with a perspective on improving and including those groups of youth that are faced with social exclusion for numerous reasons (cultural background, sexual orientation, socio-economical position, etc.).

Youth work is an important way of increasing active participation of young people and integrating people with fewer opportunities in forming an inclusive society. The target group of this training course is composed of youth workers and trainers who are directly working with young people from excluded groups and/ or are from these groups themselves. They should have some experience in the training field, as we want them to be able to multiply as effective as possible after the training. Moreover they should have a strong interest in outdoor education, experiential methodologies and be willing to use it in their future youth work. The multiplying effect the participants have in conveying the idea and improving quality of experiential learning and outdoor education to youth is taken into serious consideration during the quest for and selection of participants.

The trainers’ team will ensure that the training is challenging, with innovative approaches and methodologies, to raise the quality of outdoor education in youth work, linking 12 countries together.