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Current Research Projects

Critical Consciousness in High School Outdoor and Experiential Education

Methodology/Approach

Outdoor school staff involved in delivering outdoor education programming are often predominantly white. High school near-peer mentors, also known as high school leaders, high school counselors, or high school volunteers, in contrast, are often racially and ethnically diverse, and play important near-peer mentoring roles with younger students.

Purpose: This project explores the development of critical consciousness in racially diverse high school students within the context of outdoor school.

We ask: what is it about the outdoor school experience for diverse high school students that is unique and shapes the development of equity consciousness? 

Findings/Conclusion

Using data from a larger critical ethnographic mixed-methods study and critical consciousness as a theoretical framework, we highlight the way in which outdoor school programming elements and outcomes associated with equity, diversity, access, and inclusion for high school student leaders help them develop critical consciousness.

Implications/Recommendations

The intentional development of training and curriculum that is rooted in social justice education for high school leaders help facilitate the development of critical consciousness. Staff facilitation of dialogue about equity issues, ongoing support for high school students related to the awareness, skills, and behaviors relative to social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion also contribute to the development of critical consciousness in high school students. 

Implications/Recommendations: High school leaders, a diverse group of students, may make significant contributions to OEE programs in the areas of equity, diversity, access, and inclusion.  Pedagogical and systemic recommendations to further support high school leaders in the development of critical consciousness are made. 

Timeline:

Paper currently in review.

 

Phase Two: Research with high school students involved in outdoor school, will commence Fall 2021 and continue through Spring 2022.

Methodology/Approach

Outdoor school staff involved in delivering outdoor education programming are often predominantly white. High school near-peer mentors, also known as high school leaders, high school counselors, or high school volunteers, in contrast, are often racially and ethnically diverse, and play important near-peer mentoring roles with younger students.

Purpose: This project explores the development of critical consciousness in racially diverse high school students within the context of outdoor school.

We ask: what is it about the outdoor school experience for diverse high school students that is unique and shapes the development of equity consciousness? 

Findings/Conclusion

Using data from a larger critical ethnographic mixed-methods study and critical consciousness as a theoretical framework, we highlight the way in which outdoor school programming elements and outcomes associated with equity, diversity, access, and inclusion for high school student leaders help them develop critical consciousness.

Implications/Recommendations

The intentional development of training and curriculum that is rooted in social justice education for high school leaders help facilitate the development of critical consciousness. Staff facilitation of dialogue about equity issues, ongoing support for high school students related to the awareness, skills, and behaviors relative to social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion also contribute to the development of critical consciousness in high school students. 

Implications/Recommendations: High school leaders, a diverse group of students, may make significant contributions to OEE programs in the areas of equity, diversity, access, and inclusion.  Pedagogical and systemic recommendations to further support high school leaders in the development of critical consciousness are made. 

Timeline:

Paper currently in review.

 

Phase Two: Research with high school students involved in outdoor school, will commence Fall 2021 and continue through Spring 2022.

We Should Have Held This in a Circle: Disrupting Colonial Logics in Outdoor Education

Background

In 2016, voters in Oregon passed Measure 99, stabilizing funding for public schools statewide to provide a residential outdoor school experience for 5th/6th grade students. The legislature tasked Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service to distribute funds to school districts and education service districts to operate outdoor school programs and provide professional development opportunities for educators. In an effort to consult and collaborate with various community stakeholders, especially those marginalized in outdoor education, OSU Extension held a series of listening sessions. We recognized the need to explicitly consult with Indigenous communities about the experiences of Native youth participating in outdoor schools, with the understanding that all outdoor education takes place on Indigenous homelands.

Purpose

We agreed to explore more culturally responsive and responsible approaches to challenging colonialism and integrating Indigenous studies into outdoor education programs in Oregon. This project is a professional development and research partnership between Dr. Spirit Brooks and Dr. Leilani Sabzalian and reflects our commitment as Indigenous studies scholars to ensure that the statewide organization that funds outdoor schools in Oregon and the educators it trains are committed to the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and knowledge systems. Outdoor educators often reproduce and extend these same colonial logics in the field, including the logics of elimination, replacement, and erasure (Wolfe, 2006). In outdoor education, settler logics often manifest in the forms of cultural appropriation, misrepresentation, settler nativism, and Indigenous erasure. Given our work with educators, we knew there was a need for research that explores how outdoor educators, both formal (classroom teachers) and non-formal (outdoor education providers and practitioners), see themselves and their teaching in relation to Indigenous students and Indigenous studies concepts. We heard the concerns expressed by Indigenous educators and families at the listening sessions, who shared they had not often been invited into school-level planning for outdoor school programming, and we took those concerns seriously. Additionally, outdoor educators had specifically requested training related to Indigenous studies and outdoor education. Some outdoor educators had followed the “Tribal History/Shared History” legislative campaign with interest and wondered how the curriculum being developed could be used in the outdoor school setting. Others were concerned about cultural appropriation in their camp settings and were looking for ways to learn more about responsible inclusion of Indigenous Knowledges. Some educators understood their curriculum to be less than culturally responsive and were seeking the skills to revise their existing curriculum. 

Methodology/Methods

We used data gathered from a series of day-long professional development workshops for outdoor educators in various regions throughout the state to explore outdoor educators’ knowledge of Indigenous studies concepts, as well as how prepared outdoor educators were to more effectively support Indigenous students in their classrooms and schools.

Findings/Implications 

The workshops served to make colonial logics and practices of erasure visible so that outdoor educators could learn to contest those colonizing logics, and create more just and humanizing spaces for Indigenous students and knowledge systems. Our findings highlight moments of engagement, instances where participants leaned into the responsibilities that Indigenous studies calls for, and moments of evasion, times when participants resisted anticolonial curriculum, commitments, and their accompanying responsibilities.

Implications/Recommendations

Our experiences in the workshop have also made clear that we cannot “workshop” our way out of settler colonialism. Our workshop curriculum intentionally anticipated and challenged colonial logics that permeate outdoor education, but some educators resisted their individual and programmatic complicity in colonialism, and their responsibilities to Native communities. Moreover, the educators who embraced the anticolonial content and commitments expressed the need for further support. We recognized that while workshops are a convenient way to educate a large number of educators, they can only plant the seed for educators who must continue the work on their own.

Timeline:

Paper currently in review.

Ongoing data analysis.

Background

In 2016, voters in Oregon passed Measure 99, stabilizing funding for public schools statewide to provide a residential outdoor school experience for 5th/6th grade students. The legislature tasked Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service to distribute funds to school districts and education service districts to operate outdoor school programs and provide professional development opportunities for educators. In an effort to consult and collaborate with various community stakeholders, especially those marginalized in outdoor education, OSU Extension held a series of listening sessions. We recognized the need to explicitly consult with Indigenous communities about the experiences of Native youth participating in outdoor schools, with the understanding that all outdoor education takes place on Indigenous homelands.

Purpose

We agreed to explore more culturally responsive and responsible approaches to challenging colonialism and integrating Indigenous studies into outdoor education programs in Oregon. This project is a professional development and research partnership between Dr. Spirit Brooks and Dr. Leilani Sabzalian and reflects our commitment as Indigenous studies scholars to ensure that the statewide organization that funds outdoor schools in Oregon and the educators it trains are committed to the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and knowledge systems. Outdoor educators often reproduce and extend these same colonial logics in the field, including the logics of elimination, replacement, and erasure (Wolfe, 2006). In outdoor education, settler logics often manifest in the forms of cultural appropriation, misrepresentation, settler nativism, and Indigenous erasure. Given our work with educators, we knew there was a need for research that explores how outdoor educators, both formal (classroom teachers) and non-formal (outdoor education providers and practitioners), see themselves and their teaching in relation to Indigenous students and Indigenous studies concepts. We heard the concerns expressed by Indigenous educators and families at the listening sessions, who shared they had not often been invited into school-level planning for outdoor school programming, and we took those concerns seriously. Additionally, outdoor educators had specifically requested training related to Indigenous studies and outdoor education. Some outdoor educators had followed the “Tribal History/Shared History” legislative campaign with interest and wondered how the curriculum being developed could be used in the outdoor school setting. Others were concerned about cultural appropriation in their camp settings and were looking for ways to learn more about responsible inclusion of Indigenous Knowledges. Some educators understood their curriculum to be less than culturally responsive and were seeking the skills to revise their existing curriculum. 

Methodology/Methods

We used data gathered from a series of day-long professional development workshops for outdoor educators in various regions throughout the state to explore outdoor educators’ knowledge of Indigenous studies concepts, as well as how prepared outdoor educators were to more effectively support Indigenous students in their classrooms and schools.

Findings/Implications 

The workshops served to make colonial logics and practices of erasure visible so that outdoor educators could learn to contest those colonizing logics, and create more just and humanizing spaces for Indigenous students and knowledge systems. Our findings highlight moments of engagement, instances where participants leaned into the responsibilities that Indigenous studies calls for, and moments of evasion, times when participants resisted anticolonial curriculum, commitments, and their accompanying responsibilities.

Implications/Recommendations

Our experiences in the workshop have also made clear that we cannot “workshop” our way out of settler colonialism. Our workshop curriculum intentionally anticipated and challenged colonial logics that permeate outdoor education, but some educators resisted their individual and programmatic complicity in colonialism, and their responsibilities to Native communities. Moreover, the educators who embraced the anticolonial content and commitments expressed the need for further support. We recognized that while workshops are a convenient way to educate a large number of educators, they can only plant the seed for educators who must continue the work on their own.

Timeline:

Paper currently in review.

Ongoing data analysis.

A New Landscape: Cultural Responsiveness in Outdoor Education: An Oregon Case Study

Background

In response to a need for support related to high-quality curriculum, culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy in outdoor education, and developing support related to access and inclusion of students with exceptional needs, the OSU Extension Service Outdoor School program created a suite of self-evaluation tools. The self-evaluation tools are designed to support programs in reflection of strengths and opportunities for growth, especially related to making outdoor school more equitable, accessible, and culturally responsive.

These tools are:

  • Instructional Resource Self-Evaluation Tool (IRSET): Supports the review of instructional resources with explicit learning objectives (e.g., field studies) and without explicit learning objectives (e.g., songs, stories, mealtimes)
  • Cultural Responsiveness Self-Evaluation Tool (CRSET): Supports outdoor school programs in becoming more culturally responsive 

  • Special Education and Accessibility Self-Evaluation Tool (SEASET): Supports reflection on policies and practices that affect how accessible outdoor school programs are for students with exceptional needs

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to explore how engagement with culturally responsive pedagogy and educational concepts can both complicate and enrich curriculum and pedagogy in outdoor education. We also explore outdoor educators’ responses to concepts presented in the self-evaluation tools, as well as ways that outdoor educators lean in and embrace the responsibilities and commitments that the self-evaluation tools forward. Additionally, we will explore ways that outdoor educators may avoid or evade these responsibilities and commitments.

Methods/Methodology

We will use workshop, interview, and focus group data to explore the motivation to engage with the suite of self-evaluation tools.

Background

In response to a need for support related to high-quality curriculum, culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy in outdoor education, and developing support related to access and inclusion of students with exceptional needs, the OSU Extension Service Outdoor School program created a suite of self-evaluation tools. The self-evaluation tools are designed to support programs in reflection of strengths and opportunities for growth, especially related to making outdoor school more equitable, accessible, and culturally responsive.

These tools are:

  • Instructional Resource Self-Evaluation Tool (IRSET): Supports the review of instructional resources with explicit learning objectives (e.g., field studies) and without explicit learning objectives (e.g., songs, stories, mealtimes)
  • Cultural Responsiveness Self-Evaluation Tool (CRSET): Supports outdoor school programs in becoming more culturally responsive 

  • Special Education and Accessibility Self-Evaluation Tool (SEASET): Supports reflection on policies and practices that affect how accessible outdoor school programs are for students with exceptional needs

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to explore how engagement with culturally responsive pedagogy and educational concepts can both complicate and enrich curriculum and pedagogy in outdoor education. We also explore outdoor educators’ responses to concepts presented in the self-evaluation tools, as well as ways that outdoor educators lean in and embrace the responsibilities and commitments that the self-evaluation tools forward. Additionally, we will explore ways that outdoor educators may avoid or evade these responsibilities and commitments.

Methods/Methodology

We will use workshop, interview, and focus group data to explore the motivation to engage with the suite of self-evaluation tools.

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