A Brief History of Outdoor Education as a Major

John Dockendorf

August 1, 2022

John Robert Dockendorf pocahontas

An outdoor education major can be an important step in preparing for a career in outdoor educational experiences. The courses in this major cover various types of outdoor programs and environments, as well as the philosophical foundations and pedagogical skills necessary to teach adventure education skills to otheres. Because the major involves working with people in the wilderness, adventure education professionals need to understand both the reasons and situations in which they work. Here is more information on what this major entails.

Key outdoor educations pioneers

The Outward Bound movement is often cited as a major source of modern outdoor education, but other influences can be identified. For example, organized camping programs were in place as far back as the late nineteenth century, and ancient Greek civilizations used horse riding to train their soldiers. The Outward Bound movement first began during World War II and spawned similar programs such as the Forest Schools of Denmark.

A key pioneer of outdoor education is Kurt Hahn. Hahn, a German educator, helped create the Outward Bound and Duke of Edinburgh Award programs. Hahn’s work helped shape the field of outdoor education by identifying six major declines among modern youth. These include lack of fitness, confusion about life, a loss of imagination, and a weakening of craftsmanship. His work also laid the groundwork for many new outdoor education initiatives such as the ELOB movement.

Types of outdoor educations

The field of outdoor education has many different options. It has a rich history, which is illustrated by some of the most influential outdoor educators. Most of these individuals came from a variety of socio – economic backgrounds, but it the early years is was dominated by Caucasian Males. Students in this field generally come from North America, Australia,England and New Zealand and the Apline regions of Europe. The United World Colleges movement is a popular choice for outdoor education majors. Now that the field has matured, good female outdoor educators dominating field positions and in middle management. It is expected that in a few years, as the early generations of male leaders retire, that outdoor education will truly be a female dominated field.
One of the career options for outdoor education, majors is becoming a wilderness guide. They can also lead wilderness survival courses. As a part of the degree, you’ll take classes in environmental studies, risk management, wilderness first aid, and group dynamics with a heavy emphasis on leadership and communication skills. You’ll also learn about the history of outdoor education and the natural world. In addition to working with others, you’ll have the opportunity to lead a team of people. You can teach others how to contribute to a community or guide other people and teach outdoor skills on their outdoor adventures.

Career options for outdoor educations majors

There are several careers in outdoor education. These jobs involve various types of outdoor activities. While some outdoor education jobs require specific skills, others do not. These opportunities often require higher education. Due to the hands on nature of the craft,and the high skill set needed to guide many activities, outdoor education programs usually require internships as well as intensive field experiences. Some programs like Brevard College in North Carolina, Prescott College in Arizona, or Northern Vermont University, may spend up to two consecutive months outdoors in the field, where the outdoors truly is their classroom.

The Outdoor Education major is a practical, hands on program that prepares students to work in various outdoor environments. Its emphasis is on environmental education, service and hands on education for children and teaching others about environmental science and preservation of nature and ecosystems. Some examples of jobs held by recent outdoor education graduates include program directors at outdoor science and environmental centers, managers of college outdoor programs, summer camp directors, park managers, careesrs in the national park Service, national Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife management, ski are managers, bike park managers, sip line course managers and climbing, kayaking and rafting guides. The degree usually takes a full four years to complete though two – year associate degrees can be found at many community colleges.

Schools that offer outdoor educations as a major

Students at Western Carolina University, located in the western North Carolina mountains, get hands-on outdoor recreation experience through the Parks and Recreation Management program and the Base Camp Cullowhee outing program. While studying outdoor recreation and conservation, students also acquire soft skills and technical outdoor skills through internships at places like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

The University of West Virginia in Morganton also has an excellent outdoor education program and many students obtain interships at Snowshoe Ski Resort and Bike Park in Pocahontas County and with the many whitewater rafting companies on the New and Gauley Rivers near Beckley. Perhaps the two strongest program for those looking to be outdoor leaders and wilderness guides is Northern Vermont University, Brevard College, and Prescott College

The Outdoor Education degree prepares graduates for a range of careers, including teaching, recreation, and tourism. It combines experiential learning with theoretical study and hands-on training to ensure students are well-prepared to lead and participate in outdoor programs. Students gain an understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion in outdoor education. They learn to foster leadership in others and develop the skills necessary to effectively conduct programs. They also gain knowledge about environmental studies, recreational activities, and the transfer-ability of the skills they develop to other real world applications.

John Dockendorf has a degree in recreation management from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. He is the Pricipal at Dockendorf Consulting and outdoor recreation and hospitality consulting firm based in Hood River, Oregon and Hendersonville, NC