Research in Outdoor Education




At the Coalition for Education in the Outdoors (CEO) 14th Biennial Research Symposium, researchers and practitioners explored the intersection between outdoor education settings and practices and human health during a pre-symposium workshop. Guided by a supposition that outdoor education experiences impact one or more dimensions of health, participants first aligned around a collective foundation of 1) definitions of nature and health and 2) formative scholarship in outdoor exposure and natural elements.

With this foundation, existing paradigms were questioned: Are mainstay methodologies used in outdoor education efficacious, particularly if researchers are to engage with cross-disciplinary research teams or seek new funding sources? Given the United States’ increasing urbanization, should those working in outdoor recreation reconsider the prevailing idealization of pristine landscapes (e.g., mountain vistas and whitewater rapids), and instead celebrate both “sequoias and street trees”? Moreover, questions regarding the long-term health benefits of outdoor education remain largely unanswered.

These questions resulted in the identification of gaps in research and practice. “Dosage” of outdoor exposure was one common query, as were concerns of social justice. Ultimately, workshop attendees expressed support for continued work in the intersection of health and outdoor education. This research note summarizes the Health & Outdoor Settings workshop and resulting recommended steps for subsequent research efforts.