Outdoor Education and Brain-Based Learning
By Dr. Evan Coulson, Adventure & Group Services Director
Camp Ondessonk hosts hundreds of students for residential outdoor education field trips each spring and fall. Students enjoy living in Ondessonk’s signature three-sided cabins and learning through shared adventures while their teachers appreciate opportunities to enhance classroom curricula as well as to engage with students in a novel setting. Students tend to depart refreshed and reengaged, often with redefined and strengthened social connections with classroom peers. But why, specifically, is an Ondessonk outdoor education experience so effective? One way to understand outdoor education program efficacy is to examine the way we teach what matters most through the lens of ‘brain-based learning.’
Our brains are dynamic and adaptable organs which are constantly changing in response to novel stimuli. Brain-based learning considers how the brain acquires and then processes information. This type of educational approach is often characterized by key principles such as active learning, collaborative learning, multi-sensory learning, emotionally engaged learning, and learning which incorporates feedback and reflection. Practitioners of brain-based learning create educational experiences which break novel information into ‘bite-sized’ accessible chunks of new knowledge so as not to overload the brain, engage the whole learner through active movement in a multi-sensory setting to stimulate the brain, ensure opportunities for reflection which reinforce what the brain is learning, and incorporate intentionally social learning environments which encourage the brain to retain what was learned in an emotionally safe environment.
Outdoor educators recognize that the brain was designed to learn in natural settings and use natural environments to enhance learning by engaging students in novel, multi-sensory, and socially supportive spaces with ample opportunities for hands-on exploration, discovery, and reflection. Ondessonk outdoor educators teach with the brain in mind. We emphasize emotional engagement, physical activity, and settings which fully engage learners’ senses to create collaborative, dynamic, and effective learning experiences.
Click here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s Outdoor Education programs.
Click here to learn more about Brain-Based Learning.