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The Effects of Outdoor and Adventure Education on Behavioral, Psychological, and Emotional Issues. Leah Woller ESS 777 Fall 2008. Outdoor Education.

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the effects of outdoor and adventure education on behavioral psychological and emotional issues

The Effects of Outdoor and Adventure Education on Behavioral, Psychological, and Emotional Issues

Leah Woller

ESS 777

Fall 2008

outdoor education
Outdoor Education
  • Aims to assist outdoor participants in making logical and safe transitions from the routine of everyday life to a positive interaction with the natural world(Ford and Blanchard, 1993).
adventure education
Adventure Education
  • Adventure education is an approach to teaching where an individual is placed in an unfamiliar environment that creates disequilibria, and focuses learning on problem solving (Rohnke, 1995).
why it works
Why It Works
  • Participants are placed in unfamiliar settings so they bond with other participants. They work together to solve a series of challenges and problems. Trust, communication, and problem solving are some of the things emphasized. Through these challenges, they develop a variety of life skills.
effects on alienation and personal control
Effects on Alienation and Personal Control
  • Reid Cross, 2002
    • A rock climbing program was used to see if there was an effect on sense of alienation and sense of control over their own lives.
    • Data collection was done using the Dean Alienation Scale and Connell’s, the New Multidimensional Measure of Children’s Perceptions of Control.
    • Results showed that the experimental group was less alienated than the control group and showed a stronger sense of control.
effects on self concept
Effects on Self Concept
  • Ian Harris, 2000
    • The experimental group participated in an outdoor program while the control group attended regular classroom activities.
    • Four days before the study, the self concept of each student was measured using the Rosenburg personal opinion scale. On the last day of the program, the same test was given.
    • Results indicated that there was a difference in self concept scores for the experimental group, supporting that short term outdoor programming can have a positive effect on self concept.
  • Bruce A. Larson, 2007
    • Self concept was measured during a 5-day adventure camping program for students with behavioral problems.
    • The measurement used was the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale and was given before and after the program.
    • Results showed a significant difference in scores of the treatment group.
  • Chung-Chi Wu and Chih-Mou Hsieh, 2006
    • At-risk youth participated in a 28-day program.
    • Results showed that the youth improved their self-concepts on all the measures of life effectiveness.
effects on at risk females
Effects on At-Risk Females
  • Cari E. Autry, 2001
    • Before and after a 4-day backpacking trip, at-risk females were asked a series of questions.
    • Several themes emerged.
    • Results of these interviews showed that the adventurous activities brought about trust and empowerment afterwards.
  • Michael C. Caulkins, 2006
    • Observation was done by a participant-observer who posed as a facilitator, during a backpacking trip.
    • A week before the treatment ended, open-ended questions were asked during a semi-structured interview.
    • The women reported “enhanced self-awareness and appreciation for the consequences of their actions”
effects on at risk boys
Effects on At-Risk Boys
  • Hermanus J. Bloemhoff, 2006
    • Purpose of the study was to determine the effects of the program on resiliency in the adolescents.
    • The treatment group participated in three high element ropes course activities.
    • A pre and post-test was given in the form of a questionnaire.
    • Results showed a significant difference between the scores which were correlated .
    • The program allowed the participants to work together which increased self-esteem, enhanced moral development and increased their ability to maintain complex social relations which all directly correlate to resilience.
troubled at risk adolescents
Troubled (at-risk) Adolescents
  • Jeffery P. Clark et al, 2004
    • Studied the effects of a 21-day wilderness therapy program on the defense styles, perceived psychosocial stressors (expressed concerns), dysfunctional personality patterns, clinical syndromes, and maladaptive behaviors of 109 troubled adolescents.
    • To begin to identify the types of clinical concerns on Axes I, II, and IV for which wilderness therapy is most effective.
  • Laura Conley et al, 2007
    • Evaluated the effects of a one-day ropes course on students‘ classroom involvement and affiliation.
    • Middle and junior high school students who participated in the ropes course were from classes designed for students at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders.
  • Keith C. Russell, 2001
    • Participants were involved in an outdoor behavioral healthcare program that treats emotional, behavioral, and substance abuse programs.
    • Participants were predominately male, ages 16-18 who had a variety of issues.
    • Results showed that there was a significant reduction in the severity of behavioral and emotional symptoms at discharge.
troubled at risk adolescents cont
Troubled (at-risk) Adolescents Cont…
  • Mitchell Sakofs and Donna Schuurman, 1991
    • Adjudicated youth participated in the Wilderness Alternative for Youth wilderness and adventure therapy program.
    • The youth were boys and girls ages 13-18.
    • The experimental group had significantly more positive results than the control group on 10 of 33 psychometric scales and behavioral assessments: locus of control, asocial orientation, manifest aggression, values orientation, immaturity, withdrawal-depression, social anxiety, repression, parent assessment of child’s dependency, and counselor assessment of child’s peer relations.
  • Alan Ewert and AikoYoshino, 2008
    • Answered the questions:
      • Does the level of overall resiliency change through the adventure education experience?
      • Do any specific types of resiliency improve as a result of the adventure education experience?
    • Subjects were volunteer college students who were enrolled in the recreation major.
    • Post test scores showed a statistically significant increase in resilience.
  • Barry Garst et al, 2001
    • In this study, quantitative and qualitative methods were used to examine the impact of outdoor adventure trips on urban adolescents’ self-perception and other participants benefits.
    • Qualitative data indicated that participation in an outdoor adventure trip influenced behavior and socialization.
  • James T. Neill and Bernd Heubeck
    • Examined the coping responses of Austrailian high school students who participated in an 9 or 10 day Outward Bound program.
    • Coping included all strategies, cognitive, emotional, or physical, that a person might use to negotiate a stable balance between the internal psychological state and external stressors.
    • Results showed that participants who reported using problem solving strategies were more likely to experience positive mental states during the program.
  • The majority of research out there supports outdoor and adventure programming having a positive effect on behavior, attitude, self-esteem, etc.
  • Outdoor and adventure programs have proven to be another alley to reach out to at-risk youth.
  • What aspect, specifically to outdoor and adventure programs, is responsible for these positive impacts has yet to be determined.
  • Data collection in this field is subjective in nature.
  • A lot of research is short term and the long term effects haven’t been rigorously studied to date.
future research
Future Research
  • Studies proving the long term results instead of the immediate effects of a program are needed.
  • How to transfer learning that takes place during programs into real life needs to be examined.
  • Using the same questionnaires and testing methods would increase the validity and reliability of research done in this area.

Autry, Cari E.. (2001). Adventure Therapy with Girls At-Risk: Response to Outdoor Experiential Activities. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, Vol. 35, No. 4, 289-306.

Bloemhoff, Hermanus J.. The Effect of an Adventure-Based Recreation Programme (Ropes Course) on the Development of Resiliency in At-Risk Adolescent Boys Confined to a Rehabilitation Centre. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation Vol. 28 (2006).

Caulkins, Michael C., and Dave D. White, Keith C. Russell. (2006). The Role of Physical Exercise in Wilderness Therapy for Troubled Adolescent Women. Journal of Experiential Education, Vol. 29, No. 1, 18-37.

Clark, Jeffrey P., and Leonardo M. Marmol, Robert Cooley and Kathleen Gathercoal. (2004). The Effects of Wilderness Therapy on the Clinical Concerns (on Axis I, II, and IV) of Troubled Adolescents. Journal of Experiential Education, Vol. 27, No 2, 213-232.

Conley, Laura, and Paul Caldarella and Ellie Young. (2007). Evaluation of a Ropes Course Experience for At-Risk Secondary School Students. Journal of Experiential Education, Vol. 30, No. 1, 21-35.

Cross, Reid. (2002). The Effects of an Adventure Education Program on Perceptions of Alienation and Personal Control Among At-Risk Adolescent. Journal of Experiential Education, Vol. 25, No. 1, 247-254.

Garst, Barry, and Ingrid Scheider and Dwayne Baker. (2001). Outdoor Adventure Program Participation Impacts on Adolescent Self-Perception. Journal of Experiential Education, Vol. 24, No. 1, 41-49.


Harris, Ian. (2000). The Development of the "Self Concept" of Secondary School Pupils Through Short Term Residential Outdoor Education Experience. Horizons, No. 7 & 8.

Larson, Bruce A.. (2007). Adventure Camp Programs, Self-Concept, and Their Effects on Behavioral Problem Adolescents. Journal of Experiential Education, Vol. 29, No. 3, 313-330.

Neill, James T., and Bernd Heubeck. (1997). Adolescent Coping Styles and Outdoor Education: Searching for the Mechanisms of Change.

Russell, Ph.D., Keith C.. (2001). Assessment of Treatment Outcomes in Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare. Idaho Forest, Wildlife, and Range Experiment Station (University of Idaho), Report 27, .

Sakofs, Mitchell, and Donna Schuurman. (1991). Assessing the Impact of Wilderness Alternative for Youth Program: An Outward Bound Program for Adjudicated Youth. Outward Bound, Inc.

Wu, Chung-Chi, and Chih-Mou Hsieh. (2006). The Effects of a Leisure Education Programme on the Self Concepts and Life Effectiveness of At-Risk Youth in Taiwan. World Leisure, No 2.