Skill development and our perception of the environment: A phenomenological approach to canoe tripping

Year: 2012

Author: Mikaels, Jonas

Type of paper: Abstract refereed



This investigation set out to explore the perspectives of students who have participated in an outdoor learning programme that is theoretically underpinned by the perception of the environment, place consciousness and skill development. The study focuses on the student's socio-cultural and geo-physical stories from time spent, skills learned, and experiences made in the Canadian Rockies. Of particular interest for this study, is to explore ways of moving from a dominant wilderness discourse, with the view of seeing nature as something 'out there', something wild that is to be manipulated, controlled and concurred, towards an emerging ecological sustainability discourse in outdoor education practice. From this starting point, our aims are: (i) To provide insight into how skill development influence our perception of the environment, (ii) To provide insight into how sense of movement and sense of place may influence our lived experience and perception of our surroundings, and (iii) To provide insight into how power operates within this socio-environmental discourse, as well as what subject positions are made available, thus creating certain subject positions as more desirable than others. For this analysis, we draw on a discourse perspective inspired by Foucault (1980).

The intention of this study is to follow the design suggested by Mullins (2011), who used Ingold's (2011) dwelling perspective to interpret performances and experiences, which allowed alternative accounts of the meaningful ways in which participants related to, as well as shaped their environments. This research project is designed in the form of a case study and a common place journey. Through the commonplace research methodology and from travelling together, the researcher can come to know some of the ways in which participants engage with, as well as understand their surroundings (Mullins, 2011). The investigation will examine observations and participant narratives from journal entries and group discussions, to explore engagement with place and issues of sustainability.

Data will be collected in May, 2012.

Ingold (2005) admits a conspicuous lack of attention to power relations within his dwelling perspective, which has focused primarily on the material relations of life. According to Mullins (2011), greater attention to the interpersonal implications of outdoor education adventure travel is certainly needed and possible from the dwelling perspective. Therefore, our interest lies in exploring how power operates within this socio-environmental discourse, as well as on how skill development serves to influence our perception of the environment and our surroundings.