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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Working with land-based industries to increase outdoor engagement with nature.

From the 17th-18th October the Institute for Outdoor Learning held it’s bi-annual national conference for outdoor educators and practitioners. 

It took place this year at the Holywell conference centre in Loughborough. The conference included key note addresses from Dr John Ashton CBE; Director of the Faculty of Public Health and from Lofty Wiseman; Author of the SAS Survival Handbook. It also included workshops and master classes delivered by experienced outdoor educators and professionals.

I delivered on of these workshops on the topic of: Working with land-based industries to increase outdoor engagement with nature.

In the workshop the overlap between the two sectors of outdoor education and land-based studies was discussed and the fact that students in either subject area seem to cite ‘being outdoors’ as a key motivation in choosing the topic they study was raised as a potential area of common ground in what can sometimes be a strained relationship between two industries which share the same outdoor space.

Delegates who took part in this workshop produced the above diagram illustrating the areas where the opinions and motivations of people in the two industries diverge but also where there is common ground, including highlighting programmes such as the John Muir award which effectively link the two subject areas.
As part of this workshop I also shared the results of some research carried out at Reaseheath College to gather opinions of countryside and game management students compared to the opinions of adventure sports students on a range of topics related to outdoor activities. This survey involved students expressing their thoughts and opinions of a number of different activities which take place out of doors, ranging from deer stalking, to kayaking and mountain biking. Over 100 responses were gathered and the following conclusions were drawn;
  1.     Although all students surveyed had an interest in the outdoors the activities they preferred differed vastly (which was to be expected based on their choice of course at the college)
  2.          Some of the opinions expressed were negative towards those activities which were not considered part of ‘their’ industry.

 The word cloud above demonstrates the frequency of the words used by adventure sports students to describe the land-based and outdoor activities they saw pictures of (for those pictures and to take part in the survey yourself use the following link

Likewise this word cloud shows the frequency of words used by countryside/game management students in describing the same pictures.

It is clear that the students held different aspects of the environment they work in as more, or most, important, with the countryside students focusing on the need to maintain the environment and a concern over unauthorised access while the adventure sports students were more concerned about access to areas for recreation, the inconvenience and disappointment of limited access and some very specific potential environmental impacts.

3.        Thirdly the percentage of students who were opposed to the fieldsport elements of       outdoor activities (shooting, fishing, deer stalking etc..) was very small. In fact              there was considerable support for these activities from most people with the caveat      that all animals killed in the name of field sports were then used appropriately (ie;       eaten). So this area, which had the potential to be the biggest conflict between                students, was actually not a major issue, the biggest area of conflict was actually the      discussion over where access was and wasn’t permitted.

The workshop concluded with delegates sharing how they reconcile and link these two distinct sectors working in the outdoors.  

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