Zeivots, S. (2019). Escaping to nature to learn: emotional highs in adult learners. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education. 1-18.

The message of this research study is in the title – ‘escaping’. I quote from the abstract:

‘Nature was seen by participants as a learning environment where temporary escape from one’s customary life is possible. Sense of escape in the education settings was found beneficial because it enabled participants, as learners, to get away from life’s usual distractions and routines, and with available time and permission to reflect – to become someone else. This in turn positively affected learning capacity as participants re-connected with themselves without being bound to familiar and taken-for-granted practices.’

This study was examining why adults in educational settings claim to experience emotional highs during outdoor activity. The OL experiences included hiking, mountaineering and orienteering amongst other adult outdoor pursuits. The author refers to Ewert (1983) who described this phenomenon as an ‘educational black box’, in the sense that it works but no one can say why?

The findings suggest that OL appear to help at a ‘perceived’ therapeutic level and often challenged the beliefs, routines, and values of an individual. Learning in nature can cause ‘disequilibria’ by exposing people to the unfamiliar which in turn creates a new ‘recalibrating equilibrium’ which the author describes as central to the therapeutic process. In other words you have to be out of your comfort zone to reexamine and value life experiences positively. Nature appears to be unique in providing space for adults to become someone else for a while and reconnect with themselves. Wow!

To read the full article: