Doing it like Dewey!
I’d like to start this blog by thanking you for all the lovely feedback I have received from parents in response to previous blog entries- it really means a lot to know people are reading and enjoying them! From talking to parents it seems there is a lot of interest surrounding educational theories and influential educationalists. Consequentially, I have decided to dedicate this blog to John Dewey. John Dewey was known for his progressive attitude towards education, and I believe that Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens ‘child led approach’ to learning and play compliments some of the core ideas underpinning Dewey’s Educational theories.
John Dewey was born in 1859 and is best known for his significant contributions to philosophy, psychology and education. Dewey’s approach to education was influenced by his predecessors, such as Frobel, and can very much be described as progressive. Progressive education (as opposed to formal or classical education) is a pedagogical movement that began in the 19th century ( see also:, Montessori and Steiner) which advocates, amongst other things, learning through doing. Nearly all of the learning that takes place at Woodland Outdoor Kindergarten occurs as a consequence of children engaging in new experiences (i.e.’doing’). A good example of this occurred in the woods last Wednesday when children in my group wished to create a pile of leaves that was big enough for them to jump into without touching the ground. The children worked together to build a pile of leaves, and used trial an error to judge when it was big enough for them to jump into. This can be perceived as a perfect example of learning through doing.
In 1938, Dewey published his seminal works Experience and Education. Within this text, Dewey emphasises the importance of freedom, experience, experiment and other concepts prominent within progressive education. As a consequence of our child led ethos, children at Woodland Outdoor Kindergarten experience a huge amount of freedom, both mentally and physically as they are able to choose which sort of play they wish to engage in and therefore direct their own learning.
Dewey famously described education as follows: “Education is the process of living and is not meant to be the preparation for life.” Such a mindful approach to education can be seen to be adopted by practitioners at WOK as we aim to engage in what children are doing in the present, rather than setting them defined goals and targets for the future. (Incidentally, mindfulness is something that us adults typically struggle with; I personally recommend yoga to help with this!)
Jon Ord is a contemporary academic affiliated with the university of Plymoth who has published numerous works relating to informal and outdoor education. In 2011, Ord published an article in The Australian Journal of Outdoor Education entitled:The Substance Beneath the Labels of Experiential Learning: The Importance of John Dewey for Outdoor Educators. Ord considers how Dewey’s theories concerning experiential learning can be applied to outdoor education. He highlights how experience is paramount to outdoor learning and how, in alignment with Dewey’s thinking, as practitioners it is essential that we recognise the complexities of experiences. This can be achieved by encouraging children to reflect on their experiences and consider how they feel about them.
That’s all for this week folks, as I said I really enjoy your feedback, so if there are any topics you wish me to write about for future blogs, please drop me an email!
Links and Further Reading:
Dewey, J., 2007. Experience and education. Simon and Schuster.(^th edn)
Dewey, J., 1909. Moral principles in education. Houghton Mifflin.
Ord, J. and Leather, M., 2011. The substance beneath the labels of experiential learning: The importance of John Dewey for outdoor educators. Australian journal of outdoor education, 15(2), pp.13-23.
Jeffs, T. and Ord, J. eds., 2017. Rethinking Outdoor, Experiential and Informal Education: Beyond the Confines. Routledge.