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.
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.
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.