Outdoor education is defined most radically as educating people for an environmentally sustainable future. It is not about merely establishing an outdoor classroom or providing opportunities for a residential visit, although these are good starting points.
We encourage students to recognise that they are not passive vessels for the learning. They are already involved through their very existence in a learning environment that completely envelopes them.
Nineteenth century Romanticism promised that our intellectual, spiritual and imaginative growth could be attained through direct experience of the natural world. Municipal parks were placed in urban environments by Victorian developers who were already familiar with this idea. The concept of garden cities is another similar nineteenth-century idea. The Scouts movement is rooted in these insights.
However, we must perceive the outdoors as filled with its own significance and raise our expectations of promoting its good health, as well as what we want from it. Places are not without meaning. They can be other than the way in which they present themselves to us. Outdoor education is not just working outside and enjoying the view. It also involves recognising the relationship between the work and the natural world, and doing something to preserve that world and considering what threatens it.
If we consider climate change and environmental politics, there can be no passengers. Outdoor education considers the environment and ourselves within the environment. We must commit ourselves to meeting the challenges faced by our immediate physical environment outdoors and become familiar with them, refusing to be overwhelmed by their magnitude and taking pleasure in the outside world as we do so.
It demands we involve ourselves fully (physically, socially, imaginatively) in order to look ahead and respond positively and constructively to the twenty-first century itself.