UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Support Factors and Barriers for Outdoor Learning in Elementary Schools : A Systemic Perspective Oberle, Eva; Zeni, Megan; Munday, Fritha; Brussoni, Mariana


Outdoor learning offers clear physical, cognitive, social-emotional and academic benefits for children and yet, it is considered a grassroots approach to teaching and learning in elementary schools. Purpose: We examined teachers’ perspectives on barriers and supports for outdoor learning in public elementary schools. Methods: Thirty-six teachers in (urban and rural) British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario (all female; Mean age=43.84, SD=10) participated in one of five virtually administered, semi-structured focus groups. Questions/prompts facilitated a discussion on teachers’ experiences with barriers and supports for outdoor learning. Thematic analysis was used to identify main themes. Results: Four interrelated themes and further sub-themes were found: 1) Teacher characteristics: interest/motivation to teach outdoors, preparedness, confidence in handling risks; 2) Systemic factors: principal support, school/district policies, funding/resources, curriculum, school schedule; 3) Culture: school culture, societal beliefs about education, family backgrounds; 4) Environmental factors: weather, built/natural environment, hazards. Discussion: Systemic support is needed to integrate outdoor learning in schools. Translation to Health Education Practice: Results support the need for a strategic approach in school districts and schools that includes assessing needs and capacities for outdoor learning, planning and implementation of programs, advocacy for and positive communication about outdoor learning, and implementation of professional development for educators.

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