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Outdoor education practices in Belgian preschools and relationships with both environmental and personal factors

  • Jidovtseff, Boris
  • Kohnen, Clarisse
  • Belboom, Camille
  • Dispa, Céline
  • Vidal, Andora
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2021
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Problem Statement: In Belgium preschool education usually takes place in classroom and time spent outdoor is mostly limited to recess. Such approaches reduce physical activity and limits environment discovery. Outdoor education (OE) is a complementary pedagogical approach that is based on direct engagement with the outdoor environment and nature in order to improve knowledge, skills, behaviours and physical activity. However, the OE level of practice and associated factors are unknown in Belgium and should be investigated before any promotion. Approach: Preschool teachers from the Province of Liege were invited to complete an online survey on their teaching environment, attitude toward OE and practices. Semi-structured interviews were then conducted and focused on the perceived benefits, obstacles and potential solutions. Purpose: The aim of the study was to investigate OE practice in some Belgian preschools and relationships with both environmental factors and teachers’ attitudes towards OE. Results: Even though the teachers reported a very positive attitude towards OE, our results revealed that OE was a very limited practice. Both environmental and personal factors were related to OE practices. Personal factors related with OE practices were self-confidence and enjoying outdoor activities with children. Environmental factors like well-equipped and stimulating environment and having outdoor adapted clothes were related to the OE practices. Main obstacles to OE were the weather conditions, the lack of suitable equipment, the low rate of supervision, and the teacher’s lack of knowledge and training in OE. Conclusions: This study identified environmental and personal factors that are related to OE practices in Belgium preschools. Teachers showed a great interest towards OE. However, current conditions lack incentives that would favour OE and a greater personal motivation seems to be essential.

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