Outdoor Education Australia

Guidelines for R–12 Outdoor Education curriculum

Outdoor Education Australia advocates that every child has a right to access quality Outdoor Education as part of a balanced curriculum from pre-school to Year 12.

In order to maximise the effectiveness of this curriculum the Outdoor Education program should be sequential and with clearly aligned themes and specific learning outcomes.

Note: Outdoor Education Australia acknowledges the unique role that a well designed and implemented Therapeutic Adventure program has in contributing to the growth and development of specific populations, such as youth at risk, emerging adolescents, youth with disabilities or mental health issues, but is not within the scope of these guidelines.

This guideline for curriculum has been completed based on the Melbourne Declaration (2009) framework by a small group of OEA representatives, and is due for review in 2014 at the National Outdoor Education Conference. Feedback can be directed to S Polley.

The table below represents a guideline for Pre-schools and Schools, but is not intended to be prescriptive. It is hoped that it might stimulate thinking within the school for an articulated, sequential, whole school approach to Outdoor Education either integrated with other learning areas (particularly Health and Physical Education, but not exclusively) or as a stand-alone strand that delivers a number of aspects of other learning areas.

Early Years
(aged 3–5)
(aged 5–6)
Yr 1–2
(aged 6–8)
Yr 3–4
(aged 8–10)
Yr 5–6
(aged 10–12)
Yr 7–8
(aged 12–14)
Yr 9–10
(aged 14–16)
(aged 16–18)
Practical theme Exploration
E.g. walk and talk excursion
E.g. Picnic in a natural setting
Exploration through guided journeys
E.g. Day walks and lunch in a national park or other more pristine area. Sleep overs at school. Conservation activities such as tree planting
Exploration through guided journeys with increasing independence
E.g. Overnight residential camp with roles and duties included. Conservation activities such as weed removal Conservation activities such as rubbish removal
Exploration through outdoor activities
E.g. Overnight camps with a light weight component. Introduction to outdoor journey activities for water and land. Conservation activities such as growing native plants
Exploration skills
E.g. Introduction to lightweight journeys. Navigation, an overnight bushwalk or canoe journey. Conservation activities such as native animal care
Developing independent exploration skills
E.g. Adventure activities/journeys—rock-climb, kayak, ski, snorkel, surf. Conservation activities such as habitat reconstruction
Independent Outdoor Journeys
E.g. Engaging in more technically demanding activities, preparation and participation in a self-reliant journey under indirect supervision. Leading conservation activities.
Outdoor living knowledge and skills Introduction to self reliance and minimal impact
E.g. carrying fruit/snack/water bottles/personal first aid. Carrying out rubbish
Introduction to self reliance and minimal impact
E.g. Carrying food, what to bring. Using non-disposable containers. Carrying out rubbish
Introduction to self reliance and minimal impact
E.g. Preparing own lunch, participating with a group and following a route in the outdoors.
Introduction to self reliance and minimal impact
E.g. Assisting with food preparation, independent living in a camp setting, Outdoor living
Self reliance and minimal impact for lightweight camping
E.g. Packing own equipment for a multi-day camp, living in temporary accommodation
Introduction to independent living skills and knowledge
E.g. skills and knowledge to participate in a lightweight journey with increasing independence
Development of independent living skills and knowledge
E.g. Increasing skills, knowledge and responsibilities for independent journeys
Self reliant living skills
E.g. assume responsibility for decisions and implementation of outdoor living such an menu and equipment
Group Dynamics Skills and Leadership Introduction to care for others during outdoor activities
E.g. buddy systems, staying together, reporting if your buddy is not happy
Introduction to care for others during outdoor activities
E.g. buddy systems, staying together, reporting if your buddy is not happy
Introduction to personal responsibility during outdoor activities
E.g. Checking have right things needed to eat and enjoy outdoors, communication responsibilities
Introduction to natural consequences. Introduction to group roles and responsibilities
E.g. Impact of preparing well. Introduction to group roles such as leader, front-marker, navigator. Introduction to group responsibilities such as group food preparation
Introduction to leadership
E.g. Leadership tasks, roles and methods for effective group functioning during outdoor activities
Introduction to skills and knowledge for effective group functioning
E.g. Group task and maintenance roles during a lightweight expedition and how these can impact on the overall achievement and enjoyment of the experience
Analysis of group dynamics on an outdoor expedition
E.g. Role and methods of reviewing dynamics on a lightweight field trip, giving and receiving feedback, and tools to facilitate discussion
Leadership styles during outdoor journeys
E.g. Situation leadership, and leadership for different group outcomes such as exploration, education, recreation
Outdoor activity knowledge and skills Introduction to comfort in the outdoors
E.g. Equipment for a fruit snack picnic (tarp, etc)
Introduction to comfort in the outdoors
E.g. Equipment for a picnic.
Introduction to comfort in the outdoors
E.g. Day walk lunch, water needs. Day pack and gear required
Introduction to comfort away from home
E.g. Sleeping, hygiene, healthy food choices for base-camping or overnight outdoor holidays
Introduction to self reliance for comfort in the outdoors
E.g. Beach, lake or river recreation and/or land based outdoor recreation depending on school location. Associated activity skills
Introduction to self reliance and resilience during outdoor journeys
E.g. Associated activity skills. Equipment lists, route plans, suitable equipment
Conducting independent journeys with support and high level supervision
E.g. Whatever is appropriate for environments that students have access to, with associated activity skill
Conducting independent journeys with guidance and low level supervision
E.g. Students plan and implement own lightweight journey with light supervision only
Safety and well being outdoors Introduction to safe immersion in outdoor environments
E.g. Sunsmart dressing for the weather
Introduction to safe immersion in outdoor environments
E.g. Sunsmart dressing for the weather
Introduction to safe immersion in outdoor environments
E.g. Moving safely outdoors. Non controlled water environments, rivers, ponds and dams
Introduction to safe decision making and exploration in outdoor environments
E.g. Bush safety. Time with nature and wellbeing, emotional responses
Introduction to assessment of hazards, and knowledge of benefits of time in outdoor environments
E.g. Beach, lake and river safety. Outdoor first aid and self management. The role of land managers in outdoor safety.
Developing skills for assessing and managing risks
E.g. Route plans and options. First aid and repair kits. Let someone know before you go. Fitness preparation.
Developing decision making for safe outdoor journeys
E.g. Planning an outdoor journey. Emergency procedures Fitness preparation. Real and perceived risk. Safety management.
Decision making for safe outdoor journeys
E.g. Communication during an extended journey. Incident communication and management. Matching aims and objectives with philosophy, group and environment
Environmental awareness Promoting curiosity, identifying fears of nature and outside environments, and promoting discussion about nature
E.g. Investigating under bark and stones, and returning these objects to their original position, exploring rock pools and creeks
Promoting curiosity, identifying fears of nature and outside environments, and promoting discussion about nature
E.g. Observing nature, exploration of nature within boundaries
Reflection on experiences out of doors. Emotions and responses to nature and outdoor play.
E.g. Observing nature, exploration with boundaries
The outdoors at night—strategies, responses, real and perceived hazards
E.g. Night/dusk walk, introduction to astronomy, introduction to hazards in natural environments
Reading the weather for personal comfort and enjoyment outdoors
E.g. Investigating local environment temperature, wind and rainfall patterns and choosing appropriate clothing and equipment. Field observations of weather and signs of past weather.
Identifying non-human entities and users of natural spaces
E.g. Identifying and accessing outdoor spaces for adventure recreation.
Identifying and developing knowledge of the environment required for safe and effective outdoor activity involvement
E.g. Investigating and identifying the skills and knowledge required for a safe journey in particular environments
Community involvement in environmental awareness
E.g. participating in local community activity to support safe outdoor travel, such as teaching others bushwalking or canoeing code
Environmental management, conservation and culture Minimal impact on a walking excursion
E.g. keep to designated walking tracks/board walks
Minimal impact on a walking excursion
E.g. keep to designated walking tracks/board walks
Minimal impact on a walking excursion, and improving local environments
E.g. keep to designated tracks, participate in clean-up of local environment
Minimal impact on camp. Recognising impact on and care for, other species in a bush setting
E.g. engage in conservation projects at a campsite
Impact of non-native species on natural environments
E.g. project exploring the ecological impact of introduced plants and animals and attempts to manage them
Conservation and management codes of conduct for outdoor recreation activities
E.g. Codes of conduct for walking and canoeing. Impact of bush regeneration projects
Aboriginal ways of conserving and caring for nature for long term survival
E.g. Investigating practices such as fire stick farming and guidelines to ensure regeneration and minimum breeding numbers
Political and community action for environmental management
E.g. Investigate local community and political actions to support conservation
Ecological literacy key themes Nature as friend
E.g. Sensory experiences in nature such as smelling crushed gum leaves, feeling prickly plants, looking after native animals
Nature as friend
E.g. Sensory experiences in nature such as visit to area of natural significance
Nature as friend
E.g. Sensory experiences in nature Aboriginal ways of knowing such as stories
Humans as part of nature
E.g. Introduction to bush foods and shelters. Introduction to ecosystem changes from natural and non-natural events
Humans and natural history
E.g. Introduction to observing nature and ecosystems such as using field guides as a naturalist. Aboriginal Lore on care for nature
Interpreting nature
E.g. Re-visiting local natural environments in different seasons, noting changes in flora and fauna.
Concepts of nature. Ways of knowing nature, affordances
E.g. Exploring different cultural and religious approaches to nature and the way this has impacted on wild spaces.
Interpreting the environment
E.g. An investigation of the environment in which a journey is conducted from a scientific, Indigenous, sociological, cultural, economic and personal perspective.
Health and the Outdoors The importance of fresh air and open space for play
E.g. Allow time for running, jumping, rolling, climbing, laughing and exploring
The importance of fresh air and open space for play
E.g. Allow time for running, jumping, rolling, climbing, laughing and exploring
Identifying open space play options
E.g. excursion to nearby National Park, beach or forest and identifying activities that take place there
Engaging in outdoor recreation in open space
E.g. Introduction to games and activities that require little/no equipment in open space areas
Finding out about outdoor recreation resources
E.g. Investigating ways of engaging in outdoor recreation in local area and what supports there are such as clubs and community activities
Benefits of outdoor activities for health and wellness
E.g. Investigate how experiences in nature can improve physical and psychological health.
How to access clubs and resources. Differing recreation options in parks and reserves
E.g. Participation in local community outdoor activity
Introducing healthy outdoor activities to others
E.g. Design an introduction to canoeing or bushwalking program for local residents

Scope and Sequence of Outdoor Education in Australian Schools

Characteristics of Learners in relation to Outdoor Education and how OE might address these:

Early Years (typically 3–5 yrs of age)

Outdoor Education is integrated into early years education, and may become increasingly important for urban students that may have restricted opportunities to spend time in nature. Being outside, playing in dirt and/or sand, imaginative play with objects to hand such as sticks, leaves and trees are all part of exploration of the natural environment in these years, and they begin to develop a vocabulary of the places they spend time. Play that is not restrained by manufactured goods in a social context supports deep friendship and communication skills, as well as developing stronger intellect. They rely heavily on information provided by their senses and should be encouraged to so in a range of natural areas such as parks, beaches, lakes and forests. They are exploring boundaries in their environment and are testing other peoples’ responses as they do so. Adult responses to their actions are critical in shaping their approaches to adventure and nature. Facilitated outside play and exploration journeys are critical to developing connections with and care for nature. They are still in a stage where their ability to make good choices around water, heights and other natural hazards may not be well developed and requires education and constant supervision in and about these places. They are beginning to develop foundational independence from parents and caregivers, and respond well to making decisions within boundaries. Regular and extended experiences in outside environments in all seasons encourage resilience and comfort in a range of weathers.

Foundation (typically 5–6 yrs of age)

Typically students at this age are curious about nature. They frequently notice small things outdoors that adults miss. This is the opportunity to encourage such curiosity and develop the initial skills and knowledge to safely develop this curiosity and lay a foundation for enjoyment of the out of doors and outdoor play. It is also important that students at this age learn the skills to assess and move on uneven and varied surfaces. Fresh air and outdoor play alone and in groups are essential components of the child’s development. They require opportunities for facilitated free play in a range of environments including boulders, trees, grasslands, creeks, lakes and beaches as the local environment can provide. Movements such as climbing, tunnelling, swinging, rolling, jumping rolling and throwing stones are essential for development of a physically capable child in the outdoors. The importance of taking simple measures to maximise enjoyment and safety in outdoor environments such as sunscreen and hat during summer provide foundational ideas that nature can be enjoyed safely. Children begin to develop awareness and respect for other and require education as to the role and place of natural things. They may have fears about things in nature such as spiders, snakes and crocodiles and require re-assurance and education about these things. Education regarding exploration without leaving an impact on nature is important and they require education as to the role and place of nature, and empathy towards other living things.

Year 1–2 (typically 6–8 yrs of age)

As students develop their own identities and participate more broadly in everyday life their movement and recreation options can expand. Being introduced to the knowledge and skills to undertake outdoor activity in more natural settings, such as a day walk, fosters a beginning sense of a wider ecological world. They begin to recognise elements such as fresh air and the influence of naturalness on their emotional and physical well being and responses. They begin to develop understanding of the importance of care for nature, and engagement in conservation activities can provide a sense of satisfaction when reflecting on their positive contribution to the natural environment. Simple ecological principles through experiential learning stimulate curiosity to learn more about the interactions in nature, as well as the adaptations to local climates. They begin to understand that importance of care for each other in natural environments, and are provided foundational guidelines on how best to do so. They are introduced to open space as a place as a place to support healthy lifestyles, and are further supported to engage in basic movement patterns in these areas. Children are encouraged to develop their own minor games using creative play. They may be fearful of being away from the home environment at night time, and require carefully facilitated experiences that allow students to develop security sleeping away from home and managing night time fears.

Year 3–4 (typically 8–10 yrs of age)

As children begin to develop their comfort in outdoor environments, they can begin to explore a greater range of environments and spend longer without direct intervention on personal care from adults. They are provided with opportunities to learn about alternative cultural ways of knowing nature. First Australian perspectives of landscape (if not already part of the cultural setting) are introduced. They begin to identify a range of outdoor activities that might take place in the outdoors for recreation and play, and identify foods that that support healthy activity. Through extended time in they begin to develop greater self reliance and stronger decision making regarding personal care. Personal responsibilities within groups become increasingly evident through participation in group tasks that provide food, shelter, hygiene and other maintenance tasks. Experiences away from the home in these years ca n provide greater independence and knowledge of self. The importance of engaging in positive activities towards nature can be engaged in with increasing independence.

Year 5–6 (typically 10–12 yrs of age)

Students are introduced to outdoor recreation is part of an Australian way of life through stories and direct experience. At this age range students can begin to develop skills and knowledge to participate safely in outdoor recreation activity and understand how this contributes to their own health and wellbeing. They begin to understand the importance of ecological well-being in fostering human well-being, and how they can contribute to this process. They begin to explore the impact of human activities on natural environments and strategies to minimize these impacts that include technological, structural, educational and individual behaviour initiatives. Students can begin to take greater responsibility for their own well-being and participation in outdoor activities through packing their own kit for camp and making decisions about some aspects of programming. They can begin to take on minor leadership roles within the group in outdoor settings, and are provided opportunities for increased freedom within boundaries.

Year 7–8 (typically 12–14 yrs of age)

Students begin to develop skills and knowledge to undertake more extended journeys in natural environments, and begin to develop skills of interdependence within the group. They are able to develop higher levels of skill and have greater capacity for endurance. Through lightweight expeditions they are able to develop greater responsibility for self, as well as immerse themselves in natural environments for longer. They begin to know accepted codes of practice for lightweight and other journeys in natural environments to minimize environmental impact and to respect other users of these environments. Through reflection and introspection they explore their place in the world and in nature, and what positive contributions they might make. Through short periods of reflective time in natural settings they develop greater knowledge of the role of nature in promoting well being and balance to western living. They begin to develop strategies to manage minor incidents in the outdoors and other places. They develop deeper knowledge of seasons, climate, growth and landscape and investigate adaptations in the Australian context. They begin to explore natural environments from a field naturalist perspective, and learning the role and place of different species in ecosystems.

Year 9–10 (typically 14–16 yrs of age)

In these years, students develop a deeper understanding and reasons for codes of conduct in outdoor recreation activities. They begin to explore more adventurous activities as a way of exploring self and nature, and the lessons that can be learned for everyday living. In these years students are increasingly required to assess and mange risk in both recreation and everyday lives. Through engagement in more adventurous outdoor activity students can learn to gain skills for personal and group wellbeing and lay the foundation for ongoing healthy safe outdoor recreation participation. They are now capable of developing the knowledge and skills to prepare for and participate in an independent lightweight journey with adult guidance and supervision. They can now assume leadership roles in group management during these journeys. They are able to assume increased responsibility for the nature and forms of such journeys, and have increased appreciation for the role of vistas and expanse in developing a sense of wonder for the natural world. They begin to develop an understanding of the impact of decision making by administrative bodies and governments on natural environments through investigation of recent issues relating to conservation. Through conservation service learning students can develop increased sense of self-efficacy and citizenry towards the natural environment, and begin to develop their own ideas and strategies to support such efforts.

Senior secondary (typically 16–18 yrs of age)

In these years students are emerging into adulthood and seek to assume more adult roles, but may not be ready to begin to assume adult responsibilities. Outdoor Education can assist this transition to an active outdoors, environmentally responsible, empathetic citizen. Students are ready to learn more technical skills of adventurous journeys, manage the risks effectively, and assume self reliant leadership after demonstrating appropriate planning and preparation. They are ready to begin mentoring others in foundational activities, and to develop their own ideas for lifelong engagement in outdoor activities. They are able to critically reflect on such experiences, and envisage how they can embed ‘the outdoor life’ as part of their way of being. They are able to develop higher order thinking with regards to decision making in the field and analysing such decisions. They are able to engage in higher level critical thinking about political and sociological issues that support health and well being of individuals and the environment. They are able to engage in more complex discussion of systems in nature and the relationship to environmental health and western lifestyles. They are able to construct reasoned arguments that demonstrate empathy for the often opposing and complex economic and social demands on areas of natural significance. They are able to generate ideas for alternative actions and are able to engage with community bodies that seek to support positive actions towards nature.

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© 2012–2013 OEA, Pelagos Productions Revised 23 November 2013

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Outdoor Recreation Industry Council

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And also...

Tasmanian Outdoor Education Teachers’ Association