Ottawa-area Outdoor Education centres are valuable community assets. In all seasons, member organizations of the Outdoor Education Council of Ottawa deliver quality Outdoor Education programs that provide children with valuable knowledge and life experiences. Outdoor Education programs are aligned with the Ontario curriculum, can be customized to meet the needs of different age groups, and deepen students’ understanding of the natural environment.
Follow the links below for the answers to some common questions about Outdoor Education:
Interested in knowing a bit more about Outdoor Education? Here are just a few starting points:
Fact #1 - Nature-Deficit Disorder or Natural Abundance?
Richard Louv, 2008 Audubon Medal recipient and author of Last Child in the Woods:
Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, details how exposure to the natural world is an essential element to children’s physical and emotional development. His book sparked a widespread movement, including the formation of The Child and Nature Alliance (Canada).
Fact #2 - Environmental Education in Ontario Schools
Shaping Our Schools, Shaping Our Future, Environmental Education in Ontario Schools,
a report prepared in 2007 by the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Working Group on Environmental Education, chaired by Dr. Roberta Bondar, states as one of its recommendations for Environmental Education Policy, that students should, “Engage in learning activities that are situated in the outdoor environment and involve actions to improve the environment.”
In 2008, the Environmental Education curriculum resource guide was issued, and in 2009, the policy framework resource guide, Acting Today, Shaping Tomorrow was published.
Fact #3 - Schools Supported with Funding for Outdoor Education
Each year, school boards in Ontario receive a special Program Enhancement Grant with recommendations to allocate the funding to support school programs and activities such as arts, music, physical education and outdoor education.
Fact #4 - Consolidating Research on Outdoor and Environmental Education
The Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario published a research summary entitled:
Reconnecting Children Through Outdoor Education. In the executive summary, it states that outdoor and experiential education (OEE) “relates curricula to real-life situations,” “promotes lifelong physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing”, “educates for character”, and “directly exposes children and youth to the natural environment in ways that develop powerful, knowledgeable and lifelong connections essential for a healthy and sustainable future.” View the executive summary or order this report at: www.coeo.org.
Fact #5 - Ottawa Outdoor Education Programs Span All Ages – K-12
There are more than 80 Outdoor Education programs available through OECO members. These programs range in topics and span all age groups. Educators looking for programs that are appropriate for their students can use the www.ottawaoutdooreducation.ca website to search for programs quickly, and easily.
Fact #6 - Extensive History of Outdoor Education in Ottawa
The Ottawa-area MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre opened in 1967 and is one of North America’s first Outdoor Education facilities. Learn more about the history of this centre and other Ottawa-area Outdoor Education Centres.
Fact #7 - “It’s Time To Unplug Our Kids”
In its 2008, 2009, and 2010 Canada’s Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth,
Active, Healthy Kids Canada gave Canada the overall grades of "D", "F", and "F". While these reports do not specifically address the relationship between Outdoor Education experiences and children’s health, they do identify a failing mark “F”, for too much screen time and a “D” on children’s use of outdoor spaces such as neighbourhood parks. One of the recommendations the report makes to parents is: “Plan family time as active time, creating as many opportunities for free play and outdoor play as possible.” Read this report at
Fact #8 - Ottawa Outdoor Education Centres and Educators are Award-Winning
Outdoor Educators of Ontario (COEO) and the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication (EECOM) have recognized Outdoor Education Council of Ottawa member sites and educators with a number of awards. Learn more.
Fact #9 - Connecting Children and Nature is a Worldwide Movement
Many grassroots movements are underway in other parts of Canada and internationally in Norway, the U.K, and the U.S. (just to name a few!) to effect positive change in reconnecting children and nature. www.eco-schools.org, www.nochildleftinside.org, www.naturechildreunion.ca are just a few of the websites for these grassroots campaigns.
Fact #10 - Global Focus on Education for Sustainable Development
We are already at the mid-way point of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014, DESD). Read Mr. Koichiro Matsuura’s (UNESCO Director-General) themes for the DESD including: “harnessing all teaching and learning modalities” and the “importance of youth”.
What are Outdoor Education centres?
The Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario (COEO) defines Outdoor Education centres in its 2007 research summary, Reconnecting Children Through Outdoor Education,
as having the following potential assets:
- A property that offers a variety of terrain and natural surroundings where year-round programming can be safely and effectively offered.
- A location for field equipment and resources.
- Well-trained staff who are familiar with what the centre has to offer.
- An outdoor and experiential (OEE) professional development capacity for both field centre staff and visiting teachers.
- The potential to foster long-term relationships between field centre staff and visiting teachers.
Why are Outdoor Education centres so important now?
The value of experiential and outdoor learning is resonating from many different directions. From provocative book titles such as Richard Louv’s Last Child in the
Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, to the Ontario
Ministry of Education’s 2007 report on Environmental Education, to the
United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, the importance of connecting children to our natural environment is now widely apparent. Much of the research, as it applies to the Canadian context, has been summarized in the 2007 research summary, Reconnecting Children Through Outdoor Education,
published by COEO.
What can community members do to reconnect children with nature?
- Share www.ottawaoutdooreducation.ca with an educator you know.
- Share an outdoor learning experience with a child, grandchild, neighbour, friend, colleague (sign up for a summer nature camp, go for a hike in the woods, schedule a corporate or group function at an Ottawa-area centre, etc.).
- Volunteer to attend your child’s next school field trip to an Outdoor Education centre.
- Get involved! Visit the Learn More section for Community members for a list of resources.