Crafting an outdoor classroom: the nineteenth-century roots of the outdoor education movement
Hutchinson, Paul John
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This dissertation examines the antecedents to the outdoor education movement that proliferated in the first decades of the twentieth century, arguing that it stemmed from the Romanticism that emerged in the nineteenth century. Drawing on a Romantic approach to pedagogy, early outdoor educators looked to nineteenth-century literature and art as inspiration for their educational methods, curriculum and marketing. Rejecting the concepts of "rugged individualism," these outdoor educators expressed an ideal of "rugged communalism" where concepts of selflessness, community, and democracy became the lessons learned in the outdoors. The first chapter provides an overview of Puritan understanding of the wilderness and corresponding perspectives on childhood and education by drawing on the writings of John Winthrop, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards as well as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and the experience of King Philip's War. The Romantic revolution as expressed by Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper and others form the basis of the second chapter. Chapter three charts the transformation of American perspectives on wilderness through the visual arts and literature, specifically those writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne combined with the work of Thomas Cole. This chapter also explores the White Mountain tourist industry as an expression of these ideals. The fourth chapter follows the changing conceptions of childhood throughout the nineteenth century with a focus on the image of the barefoot boy and street urchins. Chapter five discusses the development of a Transcendental pedagogy through the writings and educational experiments of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott, including the impact of the Temple School and Brook Farm. The second half of the dissertation addresses specific applications of experiential outdoor pedagogy. This includes the Boston Farm School on Thompson Island, Charlesbank and the playground movement in Boston, the North Bennett Street Industrial School's outdoor programs, the relationship between the Grand Army of the Republic and the Boy Scouts of America, and the impact of Dudley Allen Sargent and Sargent Camp.
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