The Outcomes of Outdoor Education for Children at Sir Peter Blake MERC: A Grounded Theory Study
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In New Zealand, outdoor education represents a compulsory part of the school curriculum. It is therefore experienced by most New Zealand children at one time or another during their schooling. Outdoor centres are a common provider of practical outdoor education to schools. However, little is known about the lived experiences of children (in such programmes) or the outcomes they obtain. The aim of this research was to identify outcomes and the factors that influence the process of learning, in the context of Sir Peter Blake MERC, a marine education centre in Auckland. Using a grounded theory methodology, 15 children were interviewed during their residential outdoor school camp. Data was collected and analysed using theoretical sampling and constant comparison. These were employed to develop categories and explain relationships, until a substantive theory was reached: The theory of assisted reflection. This research has shown that children gained inter-personal and intra-personal development during their MERC camp. They achieved this through a process of assisted reflection, whereby children were facilitated in the recognition, re-evaluation, and expansion of personal boundaries. The process was recurring, taking place after each challenging episode. A key factor in this process was the social environment surrounding children during these experiences.