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Tailored Outdoor Education Programs

By Pete Griffiths

JOURNEY based outdoor education or residential based outdoor education – which is best?

Residential camps definitely have their place, both as ‘standalone’ programs and as part of a wider sequence, while journeys only give their best when supported by solid preparation (usually in camps) at an earlier stage.

How can a school get the best value from their residential camp experience? Often a school chooses a camp for reasons not related to outcomes, such as teacher comfort, travel times, or even price – none of which has any bearing on the quality of the student’s experience.

To improve outcomes, first define what it is the school wants to achieve from camp. This may be as simple as providing younger pupils with their first taste of being away from home and developing a sense of independence.

While camps are often used at the Primary level, they are also frequently chosen for year 7 programs to build relationships between students and teachers. At higher year levels, camps work best when focused on particular aspects of curriculum, such as environmental education.

There does come a time, however, when students will require further extension in the outdoors.  Journey based programs add to the lessons learnt in the residential setting by providing plenty of scope for dealing with the physical challenges imposed by the environment and the social challenges of being in a small group 24/7.

So, to return to the original question, residential camps or journey based programs – which is best Since well-led outdoor experiences in both settings have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as improving efficacy and wellbeing in students, clearly the wise Outdoor Educator will use a mixture of both, and choose the best aspects of each in developing their program.

Pete Griffiths is the CEO of the Australian Camps Association and has worked for the last 30 years in both residential camps and on journey based programs.

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