Picturing the Past
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Activity, printable version

Lesson 2: The Roots of Outdoor Education

Learning Objectives

  • Cognitive: Students will learn that many teachers and parents saw the wilderness as offering opportunities not only for recreation, but also for education
  • Affective: Students will appreciate the relationship between social and cultural changes and the emergence of outdoor education
  • Behavioural: Students will explore and research the history of outdoor summer camps


In the The Searchers section of the website, examine the The Educator subsection. As a group, discuss Fannie L. Case, Mary G. Hamilton, Ernest Seton Thompson, Taylor Statten, and Max and Lillian Kates. What did each of these individuals do?

Fannie L. Case: founder of Northway Lodge (1908)

Mary G. Hamilton: founder of Camp Tanamakoon (1925)

Ernest Seton Thompson: founder of the Woodcraft movement (early 1900s)

Taylor Statten: founder of Camp Ahmek (1921)

Max and Lillian Kates: founders of Camp Arowhon (1934)

You might want to ask the students if they have ever gone to an outdoor summer camp. What sorts of skills did they learn while they were there? How was learning at camp different from learning at school? If students have not gone to an outdoor summer camp, ask them about other times they have spent outdoors (e.g., in a park). Encourage students to think about the reasons the above individuals saw great value in outdoor education.

Students might list general things, such as:

  • independence
  • physical strength and energy
  • creativity
  • stress relief
  • teamwork


Have each student research and write a 500-word essay outlining the reasons for the founding of so many summer camps during the early twentieth century. As they work through the website, they might decide to focus on the effects of industrialization, the stated benefits of outdoor living, or the beginning of changing perceptions about women’s roles.

Other Resources: in English

The Homeroom: British Columbia’s History of Education website


History of Education: Selected Moments of the Twentieth Century


Historical Studies in Education


Autre Resources: en Français

Revue d'histoire de l'éducation


Histoire de l’éducation au Québec