Best Practice

Ten principles for effective outdoor education

Outdoor adventure education can provide many benefits for pupils, not least helping them to build skills and thrive. Expert Dr John Allan looks at 10 principles to make school-based outdoor and adventure activities effective



Resilience or the ability to adapt our behaviours in uncertainty has been suggested as ranging from surviving to thriving (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2004).

For people with limited experiences to draw upon, threatening situations evoke survival responses – heightening negative emotion leading to difficulties in overcoming stress. This may also occur within activities which fail to stimulate interest, restrict autonomy, and limit personalised meaning.

In contrast, thriving-related activities invigorate our emotions, deliver clearer thinking, allow access to existing memories while also creating new ones.

Activities which promote thriving, such as those delivered within outdoor adventure education are relatively open-ended, promote choice and offer personal support. It is this adaptive quality which allows pupils who learn in multi-sensory environments to perform better across a range of physical and cognitive tasks than those in “uni-sensory” settings (Mayer, 2001).

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