Discussing the way to improve outdoor and environmental education with Professor Peter Higgins

 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.


Prof. Higgins lectured at GEOC using Powerpoint.
Prof. Higgins lectured at GEOC using Powerpoint.

 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 %.

36 participants gathered at the seminar.
36 participants gathered at the seminar.

 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 children’s 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.

50 people attended at the educational symposium in Minami-uonuma City with Professor Peter Higgins

Professor Higgins lectured in Minami-uonuma.
Professor Higgins lectured in Minami-uonuma.

 On February 6th 2011, ECOPLUS organized educational symposium titled ‘Self reliance of the local community and the power of learning’ in Minami-uonuma, Niigata with Professor Peter Higgins of Edinburgh University, Scotland.
 The symposium, held on February 6th at the auditorium of Minami-uonuma regional development bureau, attracted 49 participants including educators, city council members, and the residents of Tochikubo and Shimizu Village. Some came over from Tokyo metropolitan area.

Participants enjoyed exchanging ideas with others.
Participants enjoyed exchanging ideas with others.

 At the first session, ECOPLUS reported the activities of TAPPO and the study result which demonstrated the educational values of rural villages based on questionnaires and interviews of the program participants as well as involved villagers. At the second session, Prof. Higgins appealed the importance of outdoor and experiential education with the practical examples from Great Britain. Then the discussion among the participants followed.

 As the study result, Dr TAKANO Takako, Executive Director of ECOPLUS, reported that the participants‘ learning was linked to agriculture, living, and history of the village, which were based on the human-nature relationships, and their learning went beyond the life philosophy and values. She pointed out that rural village itself was full of learning elements.

 Prof. Higgins commented that TAPPO’s activities are the leading models in educational movement around the world, which connects the local community with school, children with adults, and social education with school education.

 Prof. Higgins lectured about the effects of outdoor and environmental education, and the connection with the local community. He introduced the words by John Dewey, ‘Education is not a preparation for life, it is life itself’, and continued to say that, for a growth of oneself, it is necessary to learn for the heart, then for the body, and finally for the brain in that order. He explained that just a thrilled experience doesn’t require efforts, and that therefore it hardly involves the sense of responsibility. It is necessary to spend a lot of time to think and strive for oneself.

 He said experience in nature increases concentration, reduces stress, and improves a problematic behavior. He introduced a concept of green, white, blue, and dark space, and emphasized that Minami-uonuma has green space, snowy white environment, beautiful blue sky and darkness at night, which makes Minami-uonuma a perfect place for learning.

 He also pointed out that place-based education should include not only nature but culture of a place, enterprise for self-reliance, and citizenship to take responsibility for ‘something bigger than themselves’.

 Then participants were divided into 10 groups, and exchanged ideas.
 A comment by high-school student struck everyone’s heart. She said ‘I had thought the education in big cities are far ahead of ours in rural area. But as I heard today’s discussion, I am convinced that it’s not true and there are lots of advantages in rural area. I’m very proud of this place.’ There was a round of applause as she finished her words.