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On the 26th of September, 250 outdoor educators will be gathering in the Blue Mountains for the 21st National Outdoor Education Conference and they are discussing the most important shifts in education that will improve our children’s well-being and development. This three-day conference will bring knowledge, skills, research and experience to the table to discuss how more of our community can benefit from Outdoor Education.

“Starting out as CEO of Outdoors New South Wales and ACT in 2020, I was astounded to learn how many schools do not value or embed outdoor education in their methods,” says Lori Modde, host of the National Outdoor Education Conference. “The Outdoor Education providers have the antidote for the challenges associated with mental health, resilience and other things life throws you and thanks to the challenges of the last few years the time is now for schools to listen to the research.”

King Charles III spent 2 terms at Timbertop, Geelong Grammar School’s campus, where the value of outdoor education has been embedded in their practices for over 60 years. Exclusive often to private education only. The outdoor education sector is calling on the states and territories to embed outdoor education into the government schools so that it’s not just the privileged that benefit.

“Outdoor learning is not new but newly important,” says Professor Tonia Gray of Western Sydney University and co-convenor of the conference. “The evidence-based research has clearly shown the physical, psycho-social, educational, and emotional benefits. As an urgent priority, we call on our federal and state governments to embed Outdoor Education into the government schools, now.”

The Outdoor Youth Programs Research Alliance in 2018 found that youth anxiety and mental health challenges can be improved through participating in outdoor programs. Students improved confidence, self-efficacy and increased belief to achieve their goals after the participation in outdoor programs. Data and findings produced by this alliance was endorsed by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

It’s not just secondary or primary school children that benefit either. Professor Pasi Sahlberg will be at the conference presenting two sessions “Nature Play & Outdoor Learning” and a keynote address where he will bring his immense experience of being an educator, scholar, thought leader and author to the discussions on ways to improve our education system. And here is a hint… it involves Outdoor Education.

Lori continues, “With the movement towards educational improvement, it’s now the time to start embedding outdoor education in every school, for every student in the country. Who doesn’t want more of our kids with better mental health, skills for life and more resilience when facing life’s challenges?”.

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