I thought that I'd written my last word (for all time) on Natural Connections, the project, but I'd missed the interview that the head of the project team gave to the BBC about the final report. It's here – and thanks to the NAEE blog for spotting it.
And so, I have, in the Kipling certainty* that "the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire" returned to the fray, prompted in particular by this quote:
"We need to be a little bit clearer about what forms of outdoor learning meet what purposes and aims (of curricula). So rather than just being outdoors magically making things happen, activities such as residential outdoor experiences would be particularly effective for developing social skills and leadership. Whereas field studies would be particularly effective for greater awareness of the environment. What we argue in the report is for people to think about the purpose and place (of the activity), as well as the people involved, in order to construct different forms of outdoor learning that will meet certain (teaching) aims."
I have read this several times, and confess to being torn by two possible interpretations. Is it, as NAEE suggested, [i] a gross mis-reading of how schools and teachers have approached their work over time: saying that they have never bothered over-much about purpose? NB, I know no school that believes in magically making things happen.
Or is [ii] a welcome critique of current trends within organisations that represent outdoor learning interests to valorise the outdoor just because it's not the indoor. This tendency is real enough and has led to a confusion of aims with context.
Despite my criticisms of Natural Connections over the length of the project, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt here.
*The Gods of the Copybook Headings
"... As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!"