Education in the Open: The Somaesthetic Value of Being Outside


  • Christine Doddington University of Cambridge


body, aesthetics, experience, outside, somaesthetics, experiential learning


Over the last few decades, the formal school curriculum in many countries has become increasingly prescribed and attainment orientated with an insistent pressure to measure progress in the name of “raising standards.†This form of constraint on educational practice has provoked counter trends in a desire to enrich the curriculum. Situating learning activities in the open air have become increasingly popular as a counter to formalised schooling. The UK, for example, has seen legislated outside spaces for early years and a growing interest in Forest Schools. The long tradition of activity centres, outside school visits and field trips—offering a valuable way to augment formal learning—has survived in many school settings. The claims for the benefit of taking learning outside are extensive. They range across claiming value for both individual and societal well-being, improving mental and physical health, as well as a way of sustaining inclusion, social cohesion and democratic practice. This article explores how aesthetics and the body may be seen to feature in outside educational experience. By drawing on the work of Richard Shusterman and his extensive work on somaesthetics, the purpose of the article is to augment or ground claims for the worth of “outside†learning in embodied aesthetic experience and therefore help illuminate what is distinctively educational about moving learning beyond the walls of the school.




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