Essay on Critically Evaluate the Nature of a Residential Experience for Primary Age Children

Published: 2021/12/01
Number of words: 2692

“Outdoor learning can benefit pupils of all ages and can be successful in a variety of settings, it enriches the curriculum and can improve educational attainment.”

(Educational and Skills Select Committee, 2005)

This quote does seem to aptly sum up the considerable benefits of Outdoor Education to an innumerable amount of pupils and its applications in raising standards in a numerous amount of areas, including Interpersonal skills and cognitive ability of pupils. Used in the correct manner, it could be a widely applicable and successful pedagogical medium. Again demonstrating the importance of the outdoors as a learning context, The Department for Education and Skills (DfES, 2006) recommends that young people should experience the world past the parameters of their classroom environment as an component of their learning to help them personally develop no matter what their age. A common thread that runs through this essay is the potential and mutli-potency of Outdoor Education in that can holistically benefit children in a multitude of ways. Given the dangers of the environment, however, care should be exercised when using such a context, particularly if there is a large party of pupils involved who may misbehave or not be aware of the dangers (Ofsted, 2013).

O’Hara (2001) suggests that an initial site visits allow the students to feel involved and gain a sense of ownership in their learning whilst simultaneously upholding an official, yet unconventional learning environment. This could allow pupils to behave better and reduce the risks of injury if they gain an appreciation and respect for the environment they will be working in. Griggs (2010) identifies the causation model of extrinsic motivation from figures inducing intrinsic motivation in pupils, so in this case teachers could project values of respect and appreciation for the outdoors onto pupils, who could subsequently internalise these and start to hold the outdoors in a high regard of their own volition. Constructivists such as Bandura (1977) provide the theoretical justification for this by stating that children model behaviours and values from authoritative adult figures. It could be inferred that Erikson’s (1968) model of stages of psychosocial development partially contradicts this for young people going through the ‘adolescence stage’ where they learn to think for themselves. Erikson’s (1978) interpretation of the fragile nature of youngsters at this stage seems to places further importance on taking a cautious, measured approach in delivering Outdoor Education. Regardless of the intricacies of implementing it, correlating with eminent literature, Cummings (2010) again articulates the innumerable benefits of Outdoor Education can help promote someone’s self-awareness, intrinsic motivation, positive mental attitude, understanding, physical stamina and fundamental motor skills.

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“A teacher who is creative and celebrates creativity from pupils is a teacher who is willing to risk a great deal.”

(Maisuria, 2005, p.145)

According to this quote, a teacher should not be afraid to exceed the boundaries and what is perceived as the norm. The outside pressures from their peers, the National Curriculum and society in general could result in the teacher feeling they have to teach in a certain manner. Teachers may lack the self-confidence or the necessary support from colleagues to try something new, and to act against the ‘correct’ way of teaching. Prescriptivism such as this could arguably inhibit the innate creativity of teachers and conflict their own professional identity (Marcia, 1966, p.560) by exhibiting a sense of foreclosure where they have committed to the teaching profession but are unsure of their precise role within it.

Young children are active learners from birth, taking in information from their surroundings. Children can learn from media, drama, art, music and visits to museums and places of historical interest can also be very beneficial. Taking children out of the classroom can facilitate and harness the advantages of a diaspora of skills such as: close observation, decision making and collaboration when engaging in group work (Hoodless, 2008). The safety of the children at all times is vital, whilst other support from adults is important to ensure there is a low child to teacher ratio. Risk assessments and preliminary visits by teaching staff should take place prior to the trip as this will concur with the key aspects of the planning and preparation which have to be completed.

If the children are motivated, this should allow them to perform well and the greatest learning will possibly occur. Discussing the children’s expectations of the residential visit with them will can get the children thinking about prior to the trip hopefully developing a more positive attitude towards it. Planning subsequent activities and projects can keep the children interested and if they know that this is happening after the trip they may pay more attention to, particularly it they thought it was an isolated activity. Usually on residential trips there is plenty of activities to experience and participate in, if the teacher has a positive attitude this may improve the feelings the children have towards it.

Creative teaching should maintain a high level of energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise which is communicated to the students to help stimulate, challenge, provoke and encourage them to reach their full potential (Gough, 1991). This does require the teacher to have high levels of stamina and resilience, although these are arguably developed as part of their job naturally (Nottingham University, 2011).

Providing children with opportunities to enhance their self confidence and gather their own sense of identity can be conducive in helping children to understand themselves as individuals in relation to their peers and community. Discovering their own preferences, choices and outlooks on life can make them become more congruent and feel whole .

“If a child’s identity is formed through a complex and fascinating alchemy of environmental adventures and genetic history, then the wider the range of environmental experiences on offer, the more opportunities there are for supporting each child’s developmental journey”.

(Zini, 2007, p. 29)

Pupils’ opportunities to experience outdoor activities can be impeded within school. Depriving children of the essential childhood experiences and opportunities to develop friendships through relationships, feel a range of emotions such as jealousy, boredom, anger, happiness and satisfaction can seriously adversely affect their developmeny. Taking risks, having adventures and misadventures can help children to experience nature and the environment and understand life better.

The outdoors is a modality of learning which gives participants abundant opportunities to realise their potential and increase their understanding of content within the curriculum. Through positive relationships made, personal growth can be discovered. Many attributes can be developed through the outdoors; communication, cooperation, problem solving, decision making, citizenship, and critical thinking, thus validating its potency in helping children grow as individuals.

The outdoor learning experience is vital in helping children experience personal success and fulfilment, developing their self-esteem as active and engaged learners. Skills taught are sometimes overlooked and forgotten, “the [outdoor] experience is the catalyst for lifelong personal growth and pleasure by interacting with the natural world through outdoor activities” (Redmond, Foran and Dwyer, 2010, p.2).

Benefits of Outdoor Education

Lavin (2007) argues that a good outdoor education can allow children to harness physical, mental and emotional skills more than what is usually expected of children. Outdoor education has the potential to be holistic as multiple domains of learning are built into the learning process, contributing to physical, emotional, spiritual and social beings (Redmond, Foran and Dwyer, 2010). However, with the risks that are prevalent within the environment, a careful approach may be best in experiencing this, with a quota of adventure and risk.

Eminent literature surrounding outdoor learning suggests that the outdoors can provide good memories. Elliot and Davis (2004) argue that the adjective ‘good’ is polysemous in that it may be used to support a sense of fulfilment or ibecause the outdoor experience was meaningful and enduring (Knapp and Benton, 2006). Carver (2003) proposes that these two attributes link through positive emotions which contribute to sustain the memories. Nevertheless, Bixler et al. (2002) debate that considerable research fails to explain precisely what it is in residential experiences that could influence future adult behaviour. This slight uncertainty still does not seem to offset the optimism surrounding this field of education.


Outdoor activity is absolutely fantastic for children. It’s good for their health and for character building.

(Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, 2005)

This sentiment accurately sums up the multi-dimensional benefits of outdoor education and the significance it can have in pupils’ development. The totality of skills that children experience is considerable: cardiovascular skills are enhanced, flexibility and co-ordination increases and stamina, self-sufficiency and awareness are collectively accentuated (English Outdoor Council, 2013). Arguably, the skills gained in lower-level activities such as residential visits could provide a good base for children to expand their repertoire of outdoor activities to more technical sports like canoeing, climbing and kayaking, particularly if they develop the manual dexterity and physical literacy to do this.


“Properly managed outdoor and adventurous activities can help participants understand risk awareness, risk assessment and risk management and the control measures that are necessary, and thereby help to equip them to deal with the risk inherent in life.”

(The Advisory Committee to the Health & Safety Executive)

Substantial evidence exists to indicate that fieldwork, properly conceived, adequately planned, well taught and effectively followed up, offers learners opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in ways that add value to their everyday experiences in the classroom. Indeed, Goleman (1995) argues that emotional, rather than academic intelligence is more telling to success in later life, Outdoor Education arguably allows children to improve their emotional intelligence in a number of ways.

Deficiencies of Outdoor Education

Physical Education rarely has the luxury of providing the curriculum they would like, as there are a number of constraints.

Facilities is one of the restrictions. The amount of indoor and outdoor space that is available will affect the range of activities which can be offered in the curriculum. Different facilities will be available or unacccessible throughout the year. For example, large indoor space can be occupied for examinations and drama productions. Similarly, outdoor spaces may become unsafe in Winter.

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted, 2002, p.3) state that ‘one in five schools have inadequate access to specialist accommodation; a lack of indoor work areas, and outdoor play areas with poor drainage and poor standards of maintenance inhibit the programme that schools can offer’, which seems to sum up the practicalities of Outdoor Education provision.

These constraints have to be taken into consideration, by teaching indoor and outdoor activities in the correct settings when the weather is appropriate.

Links to the National Curriculum

…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?”

(Hewes and McEwan, 2005, p. 4)

This quote does seem to indicate the subtle links to the National Curriculum that outdoor education has. Although it is not explicitly mentioned in curricula, the associated skills linked with it such as teamwork, collaboration and resilience are certainly relevant to education.

Health Issues

Research relating to children and outdoor education demonstrates that there is a positive correlation between the time spent outdoors and the level of physical activity (Veitch, 2005). Physical activity is considered to be beneficial to children’s health to potentially help tackle bodily issues such as obesity (Ebberling et al., 2002). Through the use of outdoor residential experiences, this has the potential to help tackle the levels of childhood obesity.

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Opportunities for increased levels of physical activity are apparent through the use of the outdoors and the opportunity to be in contact with nature itself provides participants with health benefits (Hewes and MacEwan, 2005). It has also been suggested that the occurrence of natural features where children play can instigate creative play activities (USDA Forest Service, 2001). Furthermore, outdoors experience relates closely to child development with regards to motor development, with certain types of outdoor play to be beneficial to children’s development of strength, balance and coordination (Fjortoft, 2004).


When planning a residential trip, the acting member of staff should consider what activities are going to occur, ascertain the benefits of the activity, the hazards of each activity, if the hazards are easy to recognise, who will be exposed to the hazards, the probability, the severity and assess the existing measures already set in place to manage the risk. The children need to be able to clearly understand and follow the recommended procedures.

To conclude, this essay has tried to justify the value that residential experiences have when used as an educational resource. It has also examined how creative approaches in learning can help to promote experiences outside of the classroom. Teachers should always look to be creativity in the learning experiences of the children and using residential sites as educational resources is a great way to implement this. “The creation of an inclusive learning environment where children are truly empowered to make their own choices is paramount” (Craft, 2004). Providing a working environment where teachers and students enjoy working in can inspire new learning and positive experiences holistically, giving the children the patience and confidence to make their own decisions and manage their own time.

The philosophies and ideals of Outdoor Education are summed up succinctly by the following quote:

“Be inspired and be inspiring”

(Lavin, 2008, p. 117)

Reference List

Bandura, A. (1977) Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Ebberling, C., Pawlak, D. and Ludwig, D. (2002) ‘Childhood obesity; public health crisis, common sense cure’, Lancet, 360, pp. 473 – 482.

English Outdoor Council (2013) Values and benefits of Outdoor Education. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 03 January 2013).

Erikson, E. H. (1968) Identity, Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.

Fjortoft, I. (2004) ‘Landscape as playscape: the effects of natural environments on children’s play and motor development’, Children, Youth and Environments, 14 (2), pp. 21 – 44.

Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York: Basic Books.

Gough, M. (1991) Knowing Dance: A Guide for Creative Teaching. Dance Books Ltd.

Great Britain. Ofsted (2013) Good practice resource: improving teaching and learning through the outside environment: Lavington Park Federation. London: Ofsted.

Griggs, R. A. (2010) Psychology: A concise introduction. New York: Worth Publishers.

Hewes, P. J. and MacEwan, G. (2005) Let the Children Play: nature’s answer to early learning, Early Childhood Learning Knowledge Centre. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 02 January 2014).

Hoodless, P. (2008) Teaching History in Primary Schools. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd.

Maisuria, A. (2005) ‘The turbulent times of creativity in the National Curriculum.’ Policy Futures in Education, 3 (2): pp. 141-52.

Marcia, J. E. (1966) ‘Development and validation of social ego status.’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, pp. 551-88.

Redmond, K., Foran, A. and Dwyer, S. (2010) Quality lesson plans for outdoor education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Veitch, J., Bagley, S., Ball, K. and Salmon, J. (2005) ‘Where do children usually play? A qualitative study of parent’s perceptions of influences on children’s active free-play’, Health and Place, 12 (4), pp. 383 – 393.

USDA Forest Service (2001) ‘Trees for children: helping inner city children get a better start in life’, Technology Bulletin, 7.

University of Nottingham. (2011) Beyond Survival- Teachers and Resilience. [Online]. Available at: yondsurvival-teachersandresilience.pdf (Accessed: 01 January 2013).

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