Re­con­nect­ing peo­ple with out­door liv­ing

The Victoria Standard - - Sports / Living - CAROLYN BAR­BER

CBU Pro­fes­sor Pat Ma­her hopes his aca­demic re­search pro­jects will one day help con­nect more peo­ple to “friluft­sliv”.

The Nor­we­gian term, pro­nounced free-loofts-liv (“free-air-life”), means ‘open air liv­ing’. Ma­her came across the con­cept while con­duct­ing re­search in Nor­way, part of a Trans-at­lantic col­lab­o­ra­tion on Out­door Stud­ies with Nor­we­gian and Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties.

“I re­ally feel that they are do­ing some­thing right [there],” said the As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor in Com­mu­nity Stud­ies and Out­door Lead­er­ship at the re­cent Hike Nova Sco­tia Sum­mit In­go­nish. “What I think they re­ally do right is, that con­nec­tion to na­ture is just the so­ci­etal norm. Like, noth­ing re­ally hap­pens on Sun­day be­cause ev­ery­body's out en­joy­ing na­ture with their fam­i­lies.”

On re­search ex­cur­sions to Scan­di­navia, he ob­served the prac­tice of “udeskole” or “out­door school”, where teach­ing chil­dren to be func­tional out­doors is a cur­ricu­lum pri­or­ity. In Den­mark, the school sup­ply list in­cludes a rain­coat and a jack knife. In Fin­land, Nor­way and Swe­den, teach­ers are em­pow­ered to take the class­room cur­ricu­lum out­doors if the weather is nice.

“I would say most of North Amer­ica, if you want to in­clude out­door-re­lated stuff, it's like once a year for two days your class goes to some out­door cen­tre. Done. It's not ev­ery day that you fig­ure a way to in­te­grate the out­doors into your teach­ing of ev­ery sin­gle sub­ject. We would need checks and bal­ances, and forms signed off on, and per­mis­sions.”

Ma­her be­lieves out­door ed­u­ca­tion in­stills a life­long aware­ness and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the health of our nat­u­ral sur­round­ings.

“If we've been seg­re­gated from do­ing things in na­ture our en­tire ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem - which is like 15 years of our life - then how on earth are we sup­posed to care about what's go­ing on out there in the en­vi­ron­ment?”

“Or, if we'd been told that we had out­door ed­u­ca­tion, but we had to cut it be­cause math and his­tory was more im­por­tant. What does that say when you're ask­ing peo­ple to stand up against cli­mate change, or what­ever the en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue may be?”

Fun­ders are tak­ing se­ri­ously Ma­her’s cur­rent re­search into sus­tain­able in­ter­ac­tions be­tween peo­ple and na­ture. He has re­ceived $350,000 through var­i­ous fund­ing bod­ies to ad­vance his re­search in the 2018-2019 aca­demic year.

In time, he hopes to see di­rect prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions of his re­search. Per­haps it will one day lead to tak­ing the ten­sion out of class­room vs. out­door learn­ing in North Amer­ica.

An­jean­nette Le­may-crowtz, in­struc­tor with Hike Nova Sco­tia’s Re­con­nect­ing with Na­ture pro­gram, en­cour­ages chil­dren to no­tice their nat­u­ral sur­round­ings from a unique an­gle dur­ing the Earth Walk pro­gram at the 2018 Hike Nova Sco­tia Sum­mit hosted by the...

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