Hero Image

Graduate Outdoor Education

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.

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.

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 for their current or future needs.

Outdoor education focuses on building leadership skills for the adult student and effective means to teach leadership skills to others 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 is covered in the required class EDOE 593 and the electives of EDOE 535/536 which would help focus this degree toward a therapy concentration.

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 enhance what the public takes away from the experience and provide a variety of learning experiences.

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.