The seminar with Professor Peter Higgins of Edinburgh University, Scotland, was held on February 4th 2011 in Omote-sando, Tokyo, regarding the significance and the challenges of outdoor and environmental education.
36 people, mainly the outdoor and environmental educators, gathered at Global Environmental Outreach Centre (GEOC) on February 4th, 2011, for the seminar with Professor Peter Higgins.
Prof. Higgins suggested that outdoor/experiential education influences emotional growth and health for many of us. He emphasized that outdoor education in modern days has to consider social and economic structure of global society.
He pointed out that all educators should teach that various concepts are closely linked and the world today is very complex. Learning to respond for a change and hope for the future is needed, as well as the consequences of our actions.
Having reported the educational policy changes and the recent trend around outdoor education in Great Britain, he introduced the practical examples from Scotland, which have shifted its focus from school-based to more local and outdoor elements oriented.
Mr. Ono who is in charge of promoting the experiential activities at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology summarized the trend among Japanese young people today linked to experiences in general. He suggested that the participation rate of elementary school students in outdoor activities are declining year by year. For example, in recent 10 years children who have swum in the sea and the river has decreased rapidly from 30 % to 10 %.
A discussion with the participants followed the two talks by Prof. Higgins and Mr. Ono. Issues raised included the necessity for a outdoor learning training course for teachers, how to secure the financial resources for outdoor education, the importance of outdoor experiences for parents, how to train the leaders of outdoor education, etc.
Prof. Higgins emphasized the importance of research to prove the educational effect of childrens play and the necessity of outdoor experiences for parents. Finally he commented on the significance of accumulation of study results to further improve outdoor education.