The Science Behind Learning in the Outdoors

Trekking in Morocco.  Image taken from http://farscapedevelopment.co.uk/how-a-moroccan-leadership-experience-changed-my-perspective/
Trekking in Morocco. Image taken from http://farscapedevelopment.co.uk/how-a-moroccan-leadership-experience-changed-my-perspective/

In LEaD we have a strong track record of using walking as an educational development tool.  This accessible and enlightening Farscape webinar explores the science behind learning in the outdoors.  It draws on a variety of academic sources including neuroscience, leadership theory and attention restoration theory.  Farscape offer leadership development through experiential learning.  They engage in learning outdoors including coaching, UK programmes, motivational speaking and trekking in Morocco.

Image taken from https://farscapedevelopment.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/comfort-zone.jpg
Image taken from https://farscapedevelopment.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/comfort-zone.jpg

The webinar explains the importance of engaging the emotional side of development and how the natural environment can be used to create opportunities for learning.  Unlike offices or traditional classrooms, the outdoors has a different set of associations for us and can bring about change.  ‘Office based training rooms hold anchors to existing behaviours and norms – they won’t help create behavioural change’.

Farscape explain how despite some of the negative perceptions we are all aware of, such as paintballing or raft building team away days, an outdoor environment has a significantly positive impact on learning.  Learning happens when we are in a ‘safe psychological space’.  When we are stressed or afraid learning can’t happen.  In a comfort zone we are safe and unchallenged. When pushed too far out of our comfort zone we are in a space of panic, fear and danger.  There is a zone inbetween where we are stretched ensuring learning can happen as shown by the learning zone in this diagram.  Outdoor environments are particularly successful in creating ‘a space between comfort and stretch zones’.

To access Farscapethis benefit, outdoor education could be very powerful but we could also simply go for a walk or hold a meeting in a park.  Changing our environment changes how we feel and think and eventually act.

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