Education Studies: a research ‘journey’ from North Carolina to Cardiff: learning outdoo rs with teachers and practitioners in rain, snow and sun through conversations, observations and reflections

This paper reports on emerging findings from a collaborative research ‘journey’ by two researchers in USA and Wales working as ‘email-pals’ to examine teachers’ and practitioners’ experiences in the facilitation of learning and development in the outdoors.
The work is situated in a context where a strong emphasis is being placed on outdoor learning in USA and Wales. The research explores the current issues, constraints and practitioners’ attitudes and engagement in outdoor learning to enhance knowledge, skills and understandings which positively promote outdoor learning (Bobilya, Ake, Mitchell, 2011; Cook, Velmans, Haughton, 2012; D’Amato & Krasny, 2011; Louv, 2005; Zint, Covitt, & Dowd, 2011).
Outdoor educators in the USA were interviewed and observed in a range of settings from forests to beaches where learners had space and freedom to explore ideas in challenging, muddy, cold, unpredictable environments as well as in the sunshine. In Wales similar interviews and observations were undertaken in a range of settings.
The research explored teachers’ and practitioners’ motivations, insights, educational backgrounds and values as they provided opportunities for children to work, play and learn outdoors. Themes which emerged related to empowering learners to take risks, act independently, problem solve spontaneously and explore new places and materials creatively. In addition, methodological tensions emerged between observation, facilitation and interference.