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The nature of udeskole: Outdoor learning theory and practice in Danish schools

Summary


Outdoor education in the context of Danish “udeskole” provides insights into best practices and practical challenges

This study utilizes outdoor learning theory to expound and expand current research and practice of udeskole, an emerging learning movement in Danish Schools marked by weekly or biweekly outdoor learning and play. The major purpose was to provide a review of the relevant framing literature related to curriculum foundations, design and implementation specific to outdoor learning in Scandinavian countries; and then to get a detailed understanding directly from Danish teachers about the actual practice of udeskole, including any limitations and challenges. It is important to note that udeskole is a curriculum-based approach where learning occurs outdoors in both natural and cultural settings, using the local environment to teach specific topics and subjects.

Data were collected from Danish educators (n = 107) who had employed udeskole at their school with or without institutional support. The average age of educators was 47 years and most had been practicing udeskole principles for an average of seven years. A 50-item questionnaire derived from existing outdoor education instrumentation and adapted to a Danish school context was utilized to measure use and accessibility of green space, personal udeskole practice, and institutional udeskole practice. Descriptive statistics and themes from open-ended responses were reported.

Results indicate that despite lack of curriculum, institutional training, and support for udeskole practices, the majority of teachers expressed confidence in their ability to facilitate outdoor learning. In general, the practice of udeskole throughout the nation was sporadic, inconsistently applied across subjects and grade levels, and limited to school grounds and proximal green spaces. At schools where it was more commonplace, application was regular, active, and interdisciplinary. Results indicate that this approach is most often used in the primary grades, and tends to diminish as children get older.

The authors close with a series of detailed recommendations for expansion, support, study and transfer of the udeskole model to educators and policy makers in other parts of the world.

Citation

Bensten, P., Jensen, F. S., (2012). The nature of udeskole: Outdoor learning theory and practice in Danish schools. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 12(3), 199 - 219.

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