Goats, Castles, and Outhouses…the many sides of outdoor education

One of the requirements of the MSc. in Outdoor Education program at the University of Edinburgh is a four-week work placement. The experiences of my teacher friends would indicate that practicums tend towards borderline exploitive work conditions whereby the fresh teachers college student is pounced upon by the harried classroom instructor and given all manner of tedious tasks, all without pay. Luckily, with the exception of the lack of pay, my placement so far has been quite different.

Day one of my placement: point in case

In my own experiences with jobs in the outdoor education field, the norm is large groups, for short periods of time, with few instructors, and a rigid schedule.  But in the case of my placement at Mobex East Lothian, the exact opposite is true, which has really been quite refreshing. Mobex, standing for ‘mobile expeditions,’ runs a wide range of specially-tailored  outdoor adventure programs for young people 12-25, mostly funded by the local council and various grants.  Some of the projects are actually jobs for the participants and involve doing outdoor ‘enviro-construction’ work, while others are more based on traditional outdoor activities like cycling, rock climbing, and even surfing.

A selection of the various activities I have thus far been involved in:

Playing Scottish version of ‘Man Hunt’ in the ruins of a castle
Building outhouses
Frolicking with goats
Cooking sausages on aptly named “Hobo-stoves”
…and of course, sticking our heads into the future hole for the outhouse

You may ask what many of these activities have to do with outdoor education. My personal take on this is that often the typical understanding of OE is narrowly defined to mean ‘instruction in a particular outdoor pursuit.’ This meaning does not do OE justice.  My own ethos (which is very much still evolving) is that the varied activities defined as OE are a) intrinsically valuable as experiences that get people into the natural environment and b) often a means to promote personal and social development goals. Mobex seems to agree with me on this point; it is more about the adventure and the experience than the activity itself. Unless that activity is dangling people into human-sized holes, which is a truly noble outdoor pursuit, valuable in its own right : )

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4 thoughts on “Goats, Castles, and Outhouses…the many sides of outdoor education

  1. So glad that you’re starting this project, I’m going to love to follow it. I’m also inspired by your wider ideas about OE, it makes me want to get back out into nature to work with people again.

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