Building Community through Place-Based Outdoor Education

Mr Ben Trewren1,2
1Youth Inc., Adelaide, Australia; 2Churchill Fellow, Adelaide, Australia


I wish to present on the opportunities to look up and out by engaging students in place-based outdoor education that engages with their local communities.

I have recently returned from undertaking a Churchill Fellowship where I have travelled to New Zealand, Canada, USA, UK and Switzerland to explore opportunities for trail destinations to attract and grow world-class ‘shared-use’ interests.

Working with young people who have left school and have made the decision to return, we have reimagined outdoor education to how it can influence and transform the collective physical, social, communal, emotional, and mental health of each student.

Young people demand more humanistic and holistic outcomes relevant to a life-purpose which is meaningful to them. This has included overcoming challenges in areas of education, employment and empowerment through the utilisation of trails, adventure and nature immersion.

The value of outdoor education is that community can include many people from residents, non-profits, small-business, landowners, National Parks and commercial operators. Through harnessing adventure and place-based education, it allows us to incorporate a range of pedagogies, including thematic, hands-on, or project-based learning.

This diversification engages students in a greater appreciation for the elements they’re immersed in – recognition of Indigenous culture, researching history, the impact of tourism, interactivity of vulnerable people, micro-business opportunities, environmental awareness, employability skills, connection to nature and stewardship of the world around them.

Outcomes identified include improved self-confidence, belief and value which positively affects their approach to both education and employment. Students also develop a greater awareness and confidence in the community around them, for which they now have a greater appreciation.

The individualised nature of each student experience, the ability to capture the evidence of learning and overcoming the ‘relaxed’ attitudes towards outdoor education always posing implications and challenges to be overcome.

Ben Trewren is currently the Experiential Learning Manager at Youth Inc. in Adelaide, with a strong interest in project-based learning in outdoor environments.
Ben is also a past recipient of a 2018 Churchill Fellowship, where he explored opportunities for trail destinations to attract and grow world-class ‘shared-use’ interests.
Ben is driven by his passion for reinforcing the value of connectivity to youth and building communities of purpose-driven people, through experiential outdoor adventure.
He specialises in place and adventure-based education, event management, community-driven leadership, program design, training and development and youth-empowerment. He is also qualified to lead Bushwalking, Mountain Biking and Kayaking.
Still under 30 years of age, but with experience across Not-for-Profit, Political, Education, Outdoor Adventure & Tourism, and Faith sectors, Ben is excited about collaborating on ways to strengthen community through outdoor-based experiential opportunities.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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