Australian Outdoor Survey Report

Study on the scope and diversity of outdoor youth programs in Australia made via a survey of providers of outdoor programs. Study conducted by the Outdoor Youth Programs Research Alliance whose representatives include; Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Australian Camps Association, Outdoor Educator’s Association of South Australia and many more.

Australian Outdoor Glenhaven Park

A segment from the Australian Outdoor Survey Report

A number of key themes emerged from the data gathered.  First, outdoor youth programs in Australia  represent an incredible diversity of practice, varying on characteristics such as duration, participant group  size, physical setting, activities used, staff‐to‐participant ratios, and program goals. However, despite this  diversity, there are also important points of commonality across many programs. These aspects in common  include the explicit use of personal challenge, activity and experience as a basis of learning, exposure to  nature, guidance of participant experiences, and consideration of social context in the design of outdoor  programs. Second, it was notable that practitioners in this field clearly identified personal and social  development of participants as the most salient goals of their outdoor programs, over and above other  possible  goals  such  as  curriculum  education,  environmental  learning  or  technical  skill  enhancement.  Further,  practitioners  proposed  that  the  majority  of  young  people  actually  derived  these  intended  development benefits through their participation and involvement. Third, practitioners overwhelmingly  based their evaluation of the outcomes of their work on informal forms of evidence, such as personal  observation or anecdotal participant reports. Although such evidence is essential for the development of  practitioner expertise, it is noteworthy that rigorous research is typically not identified as part of the basis  for evaluating outcomes, clearly limiting the development of evidence based practice in this area.    Glenhaven Park Australian Outdoor

 

This project seeks to ensure that the nation’s outdoor resources are fully utilised for the benefit of young  people. No other opportunities are as readily available to youth as outdoor and camping programs that also  address  three  of  the  most  pressing  priorities  for  young  people  in  our  community:  mental  well-being,  physical  activity  and  environmental  awareness.  Outdoor  programs  represent  a  largely  untapped  opportunity to promote emotional health and wellbeing. Rigorous development of the research base in this  area will be critical to transforming the field to one of evidence based practice, so that the potential of  these programs to maximise youth development and prevent negative outcomes for young people and the  communities in which they live can be realised.

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