Nature, capabilities, and student well-being: An evaluation of an outdoor education approach
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An increasing number of children today are disconnected from nature. It has been argued that a disconnection from nature diminishes human well-being and impairs the capacity to live as fully human. The purpose of this research is to consider what impact outdoor learning may have on child well-being. The central question of my research is: How does a particular approach to outdoor learning impact student well-being? While the benefits of nature-contact towards well-being have been well-documented, there is a need for research documenting the impact of nature-benefit on well-being in a school setting. This study applies a qualitative case study within an appreciative utilization-focused evaluation to explore the quality of the impact of outdoor learning on student well-being. Through the lens of a capabilities approach, the study highlights an outdoor learning practice that provides opportunities for students to develop capabilities necessary for well-being. These stakeholder-identified capabilities include (a) to make choices about what to create; (b) to appreciate and care for nature; (c) to experience a connection to nature; (d) to ask questions we have about the natural world; (e) to explore student-generated questions and ideas about nature; (f) to voice questions and ideas, and listen to others’ questions and ideas. The findings suggest that how the evaluated outdoor education approach provides opportunities for students to develop and enact the identified capabilities. My interpretation of the findings suggests that this capabilities approach to outdoor learning may provide a loose framework, in other contexts, for teachers concerned with the well-being of their students to consider. The study concludes with specific recommendations for a teaching practice that values child well-being.
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