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Breaking Out of the 'Textbox'- Increasing Outdoor Learning



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The benefits of taking students outside the classroom to learn are plentiful and have been well documented for decades. Yet, engagement in outdoor learning remains limited in Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS). In my research project I sought to better understand this reality and consider solutions. Through a division wide survey and an action research group, I asked teachers what were the barriers holding them back and more importantly, what supports would help them to engage more fully in outdoor learning. There were 69 survey respondents who answered questions about their experiences teaching outside the classroom. The action research group consisted of 7 teachers with a range of elementary school experience, from preschool to grade 8. Through dialogue, the group generated many possible solutions for their respective challenges and over the course of 8 months, I provided the participants with as many of the supports they brainstormed as possible. The reflections of the participants on their experiences indicated that effective professional development in outdoor learning should be holistic, encompassing multi-faceted supports which involve content knowledge, action competency, supportive relationships, worldview and motivation. These findings mirrored the themes uncovered in the literature reviewed. Additionally, the participants recognized certain factors that support outdoor learning, such as communication, scaffolding student experiences, creating a classroom culture, the potential of nearby learning locations, and “thinking outside” first. Moreover, they expressed a desire for a database organized with simple, straightforward, outdoor learning resources. As a researcher, I found considerable interest in outdoor learning but acknowledged that teachers need support to actualize the integration of this teaching practice. Intrinsic motivation is a crucial variable but there are also systemic factors which limit the engagement of teachers such as teaching with under supported, large, complex classes. Overall, the project demonstrated the value in: experiential learning techniques, responsive programming reflective of participant struggles, and professional development with continuity. Finally, to further reconciliation and the decolonization of education, I recognized the importance of authentically including Indigenous knowledge, critical reflection and positionality, and believe that outdoor learning should be a stepping stone towards land-based learning. I also came to better understand my own limitations as a non-Indigenous person trying to support land-based learning, a pedagogy grounded by Indigenous epistemologies.



Outdoor Learning, Land-based Learning, Ecojustice Education, Critical Place-based Education, Environmental Education, Outdoor Education



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Educational Foundations


Educational Foundations


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