This specific emphasis is designed for a multitude of professionals that have interest in teachers, mental health professionals, individuals in ministry, or anyone who wants to more effectively use God's book of nature in their specific career programming. Generally, the classes and field experiences involve examining, evaluating, developing, and implementing outdoor education programs, Activities such as canoeing, kayaking, backpacking, and rock climbing are included as part of many of the courses, but they are not the primary focus. Students can complete their coursework for the degree in three to four semesters and may choose from two attendance options outlined below.
Option 1: Outdoor Professional Intensive
These intensive sessions are designed for outdoor professionals who need to continue working while enrolled in classes. To accommodate the schedules of such professionals, each semester requires attendance of a 12-day intensive, with additional projects and/or assignments to be completed individually in an outdoor setting after the session. Participation in these intensive sessions represents a commitment to nature-based learning in its many forms and is an opportunity for students to test their skills, knowledge, desires, and career goals. Students in this attendance option need to have access to some kind of outdoor facility/school in order to complete any assigned field experiences.
Option 2: Classroom Teacher Summer Field School
The summer field school attendance option is designed for K-12 teachers who would like to use nature-based learning to enrich their classroom curriculum. It is recommended that students attend summer classes over the course of three consecutive years in order to complete the degree. Some participants may elect to do independent study or an internship as part of their coursework. Independent study allows students to develop outdoor units of study within their own classrooms; alternatively, internships allow students to network with outdoor professionals in their home community.
How Can I Use This Degree?
At its core, outdoor education is about incorporating a nature based curriculum into a more traditional education setting. This can be applied to a broad range of grade levels and subjects to increase student’s awareness of their world, their social interactions, and how they can apply the learned skills to the broader world. The adaptability of this degree and the classes offered provide the adult student the opportunity to personalize their degree to their unique classroom requirements. Specific classes are offered in forest kindergarten, K-6, and 7-12 grade concentrations allowing for teachers to choose what version of the class would best fir their current or future needs.
Outdoor education focuses on building leadership skills for the adult student and effective means to teach leadership skills to other through non-traditional education. Whether nature learning happens at a summer camp, or use in a sermon to better illustrate, having the background of nature based learning will enhance anyone striving to show God’s love in their ministry of choice. Whatever form of ministry the student might find themselves in, this degree will help them incorporate God’s First Book into their mission. A background in nature based learning helps enhance methods of communication by expanding the ways lessons can be taught; using nature as a part of ministry expands one’s scope beyond the church building.
Mental health professionals often strive to find different and unique ways to bridge the gap between therapy and the outside world. Having a background in nature based learning has been shown in research to prove a benefit to clients as a "back door” approach to therapy. By having the client experience trust exercises, and possibly mildly stressful or anxiety producing events in nature, they can better learn to modify their reactions and this can translate into therapeutic benefits long after. Outdoor and Adventure Based Therapy are covered in the required class EDOE 593 and the electives of EDOE 535/536 which would help focus this degree toward a therapy concentration.
Camp/Nature Center Director
As the leader of a camp or nature center who is interacting with and educating the public on a daily basis, this degree would assist in developing new educational programs and incorporating nature based learning into ministry and play. Many camps run outdoor education programs during the school year for religious and non-religious schools. Having a background in nature based learning could prove beneficial for developing these sessions to either lead, or direct others to carry them out. This degree's focus on developing leadership skills would also prove beneficial to a student either currently in a leadership position or who hoped to have such a position in the future.
Many other outdoor professionals who specialize in specific Adventure or Outdoor activities may find themselves needing more training in the educational side of their work. This degree would help enhance their leadership and instruction skills and provide experience creating educational lessons to enhance the adventure activities. Providing educational elements, whether it be academic or practical and technical skills, to outdoor activities enhances what the public take away from the experience and provide a variety of learning experiences.
This intensive focuses on outdoor site development, nature study, and research. The field experiences can take place at a variety of locations. Sites visited have include Camp Wawona in Yosemite National Park and the Marine Mammal Center at Point Reyes National Seashore in California. Projects included the development of an interactive Native American educational site, marine biology observation, and marine mammal rescue.
We have spent time in Florida and Georgia where we studied various kinds of wildlife in their natural habitat and worked to submit research proposals to further the environmental need our community requires.
In the past, we have had intensives at the Grand Canyon & Glorieta Family Camp, New Mexico in which we studied historical interpretation as a strategy in the education process. Interpretation in a variety of natural, historical, and cultural settings was explored with the opportunity for students to practice and develop their own interpretations.
At times as the opportunity presents itself, we have guest lecturers attend the intensives. When we go to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, we often have Jerry Hightower, a U.S. National Park Ranger, join us as an instructor to give his unique perspective on observing wildlife and how to bring nature to the public. We also cover how to bring this nature indoors to classrooms to excite students about learning in an outdoor environment by creating curiosity indoors.
Each year, students paddle through Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for Southern's most remote and rugged intensive, accessible even to beginners and paddling and portaging. The focus is on developing leadership, wilderness, and stewardship skills, as well as an emphasis on better understanding the link between nature study and a connection with God.
In addition to the graduate courses offered, this intensive includes the Summer Teachers Institute of Outdoor Education for teachers seeking certification courses or non-academic teaching enrichment. An example of field experiences done include Glacier View Ranch (glacierviewranch.com) near Boulder, Colorado. Projects include outdoor education site evaluation and development for Glacier View Ranch and for each school represented. Participants also had the opportunity to earn elective credit at the Dinosaur Project (dinosaurproject.swau.edu) in the Lance Formation of eastern Wyoming.
Occasionally, alternative intensives will be held in a study tour format. In the past, we have conducted Geology study tours visiting various national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion and the Grand Tetons to study Earth's origins as it applies to science and religion. We also visited the Petrified Forest National Park and Yellowstone National park to study geology.
Another tour we have recently done is a History and Social Studies tour in the greater Washington DC area that includes visits to museums, Williamsburg, VA and Gettysburg, PA. Centered around Washington Adventist University's campus, this trip covered the interpretation of natural and historical resources and provide outdoor education methods in history and social studies in the District of Columbia.
We occasionally will offer workshops to cover a variety of topics. Popular workshops recently workshops have been on the topic of Forest Kindergartens. We are looking to expand these workshops to different locations eventually. These workshops provide firsthand teaching experiences using experiential, interdisciplinary and place-based strategies. Participants will learn how to conduct and implement Forest Kindergartens and Forest Schools incorporating best practices, naturalist skills, emergent curriculum, student evaluation and assessment and nature art. They will discover how the many benefits of exploratory play and unstructured time in nature can benefit students of all ages.