Chapter 11: Outdoor Experiences in VCE OES

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the role of outdoor experiences in VCE OES
  • Identify suitable outdoor environments and describe the type of learning experiences suitable for the VCE OES curriculum
  • Evaluate methods for assessing outdoor experiences, including the development and use of the logbook in VCE OES
  • Create arguments to support the inclusion of outdoor experiences in schools and identify support available to help advocate for outdoor experiences

11.1 The Role of Outdoor Experiences in VCE OES

Outdoor experiences are central to the VCE OES course. Through direct experiences in various outdoor environments, students can experience the theoretical constructs or key knowledge they are studying through the VCE OES course. Outdoor experiences also play a key role in allowing students to gather primary data about their own experiences as part of a student-led investigation central to units 3 and 4 (10.4). These outdoor experiences allow students to develop their personal confidence and competence to engage in outdoor participation alongside the course and after completion.

As stated in the study design:

Outdoor experiences allow the development of understandings of outdoor environments from various perspectives. This includes geological and human history over the last 60,000 years,      changes to human interactions with the outdoor environment, protocols and management of outdoor environments and strategies to care for, and goals for sustainable use of, outdoor environments.

Outdoor experiences provide opportunities for students to develop the observational knowledge and theoretical application required to satisfactorily complete each outcome and collect primary data needed for School-assessed Coursework tasks.

(Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2023, pp. 11-12. Reproduced with permission.)


Outdoor experiences in the VCE OES curriculum require the teaching of KK/KS from a particular part of the course through a carefully selected trip and outdoor environment.  To do this, it is important to think about outdoor experiences in VCE OES and how they align with broader ideas around outdoor education. Two longstanding and often-cited definitions of outdoor education may help here. Being that outdoor education is about learning “in, about and for the outdoors” (Donaldson & Donaldson, 1958), and that through outdoor education, we learn about “relationships between self, others and the environment” (Priest, 1986, p. 13). Both of these definitions have relevance today and help many educators frame their outdoor teaching, particularly the students’ experience of your outdoor curriculum.

To design effective outdoor experiences within your VCE OES curriculum, moving beyond thinking purely about the students’ experience and considering the relationship between knowledge (what is being learnt) and process (how it is taught) is helpful. Quay (2016) offers that “(c)ontent is nothing without process, the process is nothing without content — both require each other.” (p. 48). When designing outdoor experiences for your course, you should consider not just what is being taught but also the process through which it is being taught. Although many VCE OES trips are rich and multilayered experiences that connect to multiple KK/KS from the outcome studied, the focus should not be solely on what is being taught (in particular examinable knowledge), but also how.

The combination of focusing on both process and knowledge can be done in many ways. By way of illustration, the below provides an example of combining the two. As shown in case study 11.1, many outdoor experiences can still focus on process and knowledge, even in local outdoor environments.


Case Study 11.1 – Teaching Technology

KK: 1.1.3 relevant technologies and their influences on outdoor experiences

KS: explain the influence of relevant technologies on experiencing outdoor environments

Outdoor Environment: Local Park/School Yard.

Activity: Students are to work in small groups to set up a shelter as a practice for their upcoming hike. They carry all equipment (shown below) to the park/school grounds and rotate through the different equipment options. After students experience putting up and taking down a shelter at each station, discuss the technology used and how it impacted their ability to participate in the activity.

Station 1 Station 2 Station 3
Canvas Tarp

Natural Fibre Rope

Large (Iron/Heavy)/Wooden Tent Pegs

Timber Poles

Plastic Sheet (no eyelets)

Nylon 3-strand Rope

Steel Poles

Tent Pegs

Heavy Steel Tent Pegs

Modern Hiking Tarp with in-built Guy Lines and Plastic Tensioners

6mm Kernmantle Rope

Aluminium Trekking Poles

Light Weight Aluminium Stakes

Outdoor Experience Hours

In the revised VCE OES curriculum, the VCAA has introduced a recommended minimum number of hours that students spend on outdoor experiences in each of the four units of the VCE OES curriculum. This inclusion demonstrates the importance of outdoor experiences within the VCE. The study design suggests that students should spend between 25-50 hours learning through outdoor experiences per unit. A possible calculation of outdoor experiences is shown below for outcome 1.1. Note: This plan uses the maximum recommended 50 hours and is scalable depending on budget, location, etc. The activities below marked with a * would be completed in class time.

Table 11.1 – Hours of Outdoor Experiences for Unit 1

Activity Target KK Hours
Bike Ride Main Yarra Trail 1.1.1 4
Water Safety Session – Local Pool* 1.1.3 1
SUP Experience – St Kilda 1.1.1-3 2
Overnight Southern Peninsula Trip – Walk, Surf, Camp 1.1.1-3 16
Ways of Knowing Day Trip to Mornington Peninsula 1.1.4 4
Depictions – Local Park with Local Artist* 1.2.1 1
Technology Activity – Local Park* 1.2.3 1
Intercultural Experience – Local Park* 1.2.2 1
3-Day Hike/Climb – Gariwerd/Grampians 1.2.1-4 24

Student Safety

Student safety is vital during all outdoor experiences. As a teacher of VCE OES, you have legal obligations to ensure that you have adequately managed the risks for your chosen outdoor experiences and gained informed consent before activities are undertaken. The relevant safety guidelines in Victoria are:

  • The Department of Education Excursion and Adventure Activity Guidelines
  • The Australian Adventure Activity Standards

In addition, you must follow all relevant legislation (road safety, workplace health and safety, etc.) along with other school policies when planning outdoor experiences.


Outdoor Experience Outcomes

When planning outdoor experiences in your VCE OES curriculum, you should do so with all outcomes in mind. As discussed in Chapter 10, AoS 3 is the mechanism within the study design that articulates the types of outdoor experiences that might be relevant to your curriculum. In units 1 and 2, the AoS 3 KK/KS are inherently practical. As shown in the case studies and examples below, you should plan for these KK/KS along with the other KK/KS from the other outcomes within the unit taught. Unit 4, AoS 3 differs here in that it is a vessel for students to be assessed on their investigation of at least two outdoor environments visited. Although you will need to have this forefront of mind when planning your unit 3 and 4 outdoor experiences, Unit 4, AoS 3, is fundamentally a mechanism of assessing students’ knowledge of outdoor experiences. Accordingly, we address this in the following chapter (12).


11.2 Selecting Outdoor Environments

Within your VCE OES course, students should have an opportunity to experience various outdoor environments suited to their studies. The term outdoor environment is used within the course, as it refers to “a wide variety of outdoor environments … ranging from those that have experienced minimal human influence, through to those that have undergone significant human intervention” (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2023, p. 10). Thus, anywhere from your local park or school grounds to more remote places in Victoria, such as the Alpine area, can be included. The term outdoor environment is used in the study design as it encapsulates a diversity of environments. It also avoids using the term ‘nature’ as a problematic term (Quay & Jensen, 2018).

Outdoor environments form the basis of your VCE OES course. Most of the KK/KS is delivered through outdoor experiences and coursework that revolve around examples from the environment visited and studied. This helps students contextualise their learning about the relevant KK/KS whilst providing them with tangible examples to use within their assessment tasks (both school-assessed and external). Each outcome studied needs to relate fully to one outdoor environment within your program. You may also choose to relate all of a particular unit to one outdoor environment. In particular, towards the end of year 12, having students undertake outdoor experiences can be increasingly difficult to manage while managing competing school priorities. Accordingly, in unit 4, teaching both outcomes using one outdoor environment or by utilising local experiences, can be wise.

The following checklist is designed to assist you in thinking about and assessing outdoor environments suitable to teach the various outcomes.

  1. Location: Is it accessible? How far away is it?
  2. Transport: How can you get there? Are there any public transport options?
  3. Cost: Are there any costs associated with visiting?
  4. Activities: What activities are permitted? Do they suit the outcome being taught?
  5. Suitable Case Studies: What can be taught in line with the chosen KK/KS?
  6. Resources: What resources are available to help teach the KK/KS?
  7. Locals: Can you build a relationship with any local educators or contacts?
  8. Camping (if overnight): What camping or other accommodation is available?
  9. Safety: Does the environment comply with your relevant policies and procedures?


Activity 11.1 – Choosing an Outdoor Environment for an Outcome

  • Choose an outcome from the VCE OES curriculum that you will teach soon or are interested in teaching.
  • Identify two possible outdoor environments that you could use to teach this environment.
  • Complete the questions from the checklist above for both outdoor environments.
  • After completing the checklist, compare the suitability of each environment and recommend which you would use to teach your chosen outcome.


11.3 Types of Outdoor Experiences

Within your VCE OES program, you should embed a range of different types of outdoor experiences. The VCAA defines outdoor experiences in the passage below from the ‘scope of study’ section within the study design. This section unpacks examples of different outdoor experiences to help you think about the experiences you might include in your VCE OES curriculum. When reading the examples below, you should remember that, as shown above (Table 11.1), your VCE OES program will likely end up encompassing a range of different types of outdoor experiences across a unit or the year.

Outdoor experiences suited to this study are a range of guided activities in areas such as farms, mining/logging sites, interpretation centres, coastal areas, rivers, mountains, bushlands, forests, urban parks, cultural and historical sites, and state or national parks. Activities undertaken could include bushwalking, cross-country skiing, canoe touring, cycle touring, conservation and restoration activities, marine exploration, and participation in community projects. Outdoor experiences that use weapons or motorised devices to replace human effort are not suitable for this study. The duration of activities undertaken should include a range of multi-day/journey-based activities, half/whole-day activities and class-time activities on school campus grounds, or in the nearby local environment.

(Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2023, p. 4. Reproduced with permission.)

Multi-day – Journey-Based

Journey-based outdoor experiences involve students travelling through an outdoor environment with their own effort. This can be done using a variety of activities, including bushwalking, ski touring, canoeing, kayaking, and bike touring, combined with overnight camping using various equipment and sites. Wattchow & Brown (2011) state that “the journey or expedition has long been part of the staple diet of pedagogic approaches to outdoor education” (p. 137). The same can be said about VCE OES trips. Previous versions of the study design specified that most outdoor experiences would be conducted using a journey. Many VCE OES courses still use journeys as a staple in their program of outdoor experiences.

Jukes (personal communication, 27 July 2023) explains, “Journeys are conventionally defined as travel from a point to point. However, in outdoor education, the adage of ‘it’s the journey rather than the destination’ is often quoted.” He goes on to state, “This points to the fact that it is the journeying rather than the end destination that bring about meaningful experiences that have educative potential. This can happen in multiple formats”. In VCE OES, these potentials are typically explored via the explicit planning of experiences that align with the teaching of the specified KK/KS as part of the outdoor experience.

Journey-based programs more generally range as short as an overnight experience in a local outdoor environment to more extended multiple-week expeditions that sometimes feature in years 9 and 10 of outdoor education programs. Given the nature of the recommended hours in VCE OES, journeys are typically between 2-5 days. An example overview of an VCE OES journey-based outdoor experience that aligns with 2.1 & 2.3 is shown below for a snowshoe/cross-country ski tour on the Bogong High Plains.


Case Study 11.1 – Journey Based Outdoor Experience – Bogong High Plains Ski Tour

Route Day 1 – Windy Corner to Cope Hut
Day 2 – Cope Hut to Fitzgeralds Hut
Day 3 – Fitzgeralds Hut to Windy Corner
Campground Cope Hut
Fitzgeralds Hut
KK 2.1.1 scientific understandings of a range of outdoor environments including:

  • the interrelationships between biotic and abiotic components
  • the effects of natural and human-induced changes on a range of outdoor environments, such as day to night, seasons, tides, flood, drought, fire, migration and climate change

2.1.3 understandings of vocational perspectives of outdoor environments, including at least two of the following:

  • outdoor leading and guiding
  • environmental research and policy

2.3.1 how to conduct safe and sustainable peer-led outdoor activities, involving minimal impact strategies for groups, route planning, food and equipment planning, risk management planning and transport planning

2.3.2 how to plan and adapt outdoor experiences due to weather, including weather patterns and extreme weather

2.3.3 how to monitor observations of own and other groups’ impacts on the outdoor environment during an outdoor experience

Key Teaching Activities
  • Pre-trip – Gear preparation for a winter alpine season
  • Peer co-leading during sleeping times
  • Peer teaching of a cooking circle – 2 students to lead each meal
  • Snow depth measuring activity
  • Day-night observation
  • Minimal impact strategies throughout
  • Cloud/weather observations

Note: The above assumes students have done an introductory cross-country ski day on the day before the journey starts or before the trip. Distances and campsites may need to be varied depending on student ability, conditions, etc.

Journey-based programs offer VCE OES students the opportunity to live and work in a small community of peers. As part of this, students and teachers often remark about the personal and social development such a trip offers them. Such development opportunities are likely what Marsh & Willis (1999) would label VCE OES’s ‘hidden’ curriculum. Part of this hidden curriculum comes from the structure, in that students need to become responsible for their own needs (shelter, food, warmth, entertainment) and, through doing so, build additional personal skills outside of the VCE OES curriculum.


Case Study 11.2 – Peer Leading in 2.3

In outcome 2.3, students peer-lead aspects of an outdoor experience to demonstrate the outcome satisfactorily. Journey-based programs provide many opportunities for peer leadership. Peer leadership does not mean that students are required to conduct their own trips, nor does it mean that the normal burden of supervision from staff changes. The above case study demonstrates two possible ideas for student peer leadership during a cross-country ski touring trip. Further ideas for peer leadership are shown in the table below.

Table 11.2 – Peer Leadership in 2.3

Type of Peer Leadership Examples
Navigation Navigation can become a peer leadership task, either for the whole group working in leadership pairs, or if safe to do so, by setting students off in pairs or threes for a particular section of the track.
Camp Set Up Students can be designated to be in change of camp set up, including group shelter, tent site selection, toilet set up, etc.
Cooking Circles Students can lead a cooking circle sharing a recipe with peers and monitoring for safety such as fuel bottle position.
Snow-sleeping During snow sleeping, buddy systems are common. Students work in peers to monitor tent buddies for thermal comfort and any early warning signs of hypothermia.
Peer Welfare Peer welfare roles oversee their peers’ physical and emotional welfare. They might assist in monitoring the groups’ hydration, sunscreen use, hats, etc.
Logistics Officers Group logistics roles can include managing equipment distribution, checking weather forecasts and communicating them to the leaders or group, and communicating with 24/7 contacts supervised by the teacher.

Multi-day – Base Camping

Multi-day base camping trips allow various outdoor experiences that complement the VCE OES curriculum to be taught in one outdoor environment. Base camping can be less physically demanding than journey-based programs, depending on the design of the outdoor experience. Base camping may involve students sleeping in tents or cabins at various sties, including dispersed camping, formal campgrounds, caravan parks and other prescribed accommodation (e.g., Scout Camps). For students with little or no prior outdoor experiences in their schooling, a base camp can also be a good way to build skills and scaffold their learning before a journey-based experience.

Base camping can still allow students to engage in personal development (the hidden curriculum of VCE OES) mentioned above. This can be done through structuring trips, whether they are at a formal site, an informal base, or even a residential facility, to enable such a program. A good way to do this is to have students take responsibility for their needs. In particular, cooking and sharing meals can help build community and responsibility within your VCE OES program. When designing programs that use a base camp for your trip, careful attention is required to ensure the program still ‘looks’ and ‘feels’ like an OES trip. For this reason, tents and temporary sheets are normally preferred over permanent structures, and portable camping equipment (Trangia stoves, etc.) for meal preparation is encouraged.

A sample itinerary for a base camp is shown below that aligns with the 1.1 and 1.3 VCE OES curriculum. The itinerary is written so that groups could leave at lunchtime from closer by (Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong) schools to minimise the impact on students learning in other subjects.

Case Study 11.3 – Base Camp – Anglesea and Surf Coast

Day Itinerary and KK Link
Day 1


Depart School Drive to Pt Addis 1.1.1

En route – Students are to map using Indigenous peoples’ ways of knowing (symbols, pictures) the journey to Pt Addis in their Logbook 1.1.1

Student-led Acknowledgment of Country 1.1.1, 1.1.4

Point Addis Koori Cultural Walk 1.1.3

Bells Beach Walk 1.1.3

Night Beach Walk – Indigenous peoples’ Way Finding – Constellations 1.1.1, 1.1.4

Day 2 Beach Sunrise Yoga 1.1.2, 1.1.4

Surf Session Go Ride a Wave 1.1.2, 1.1.3

Estuary Walk – Impacts of Urbanisation 1.1.2

Alcoa Former Mine Visit 1.1.4

Bare Foot Lawn Bowls, Anglesea Bowling Club 1.1.1, 1.1.3

Day 3 SUP Session – Cosy Corner 1.1.1-2

Anglesea Heathland Biome Walk 1.1.2

Day Excursions – Outdoor Activity Focus

Outdoor activities allow students to experience first-hand how different groups of people participate in outdoor environments as described in the study design. Outdoor activities suitable for VCE OES are listed in the above excerpt from the VCAA (see 11.3). Your chosen activities should align with the teaching of selected KK/KS.

The use of day activities can help students to stay motivated within the VCE OES course. Although no formal research to date has looked at students’ motivations for choosing to study VCE OES, many teachers would state that based on their experiences, students often choose this course due to the practical nature, then become more environmentally focused as a result of learning the KK/KS within the course. In addition, many of the KK/KS included in the VCE OES can be taught directly through an activity rather than a more passive outdoor experience (lecture, talk, etc.).


Case Study 11.4 – Possible Activity Focused Day Excursions

KK: 4.1.4 the importance of healthy outdoor environments for individual physical and emotional wellbeing, and for society now and into the future

KS: justify the importance of healthy outdoor environments for individuals and society

Outdoor Environment: Buninyong Township/Mount Buninyong

Activity: Students participate in a strenuous 5.5km walk from the Botanical Gardens in Buninyong to the Summit of Mount Buninyong following the Goldfields Trail. At the top, they discuss why people might regularly participate in this type of activity and the importance of retaining the walking trail for locals’ and visitors’ health.

Image 11.1 – Map showing walking directions from the Buninyong Botanical Gardens to the top of Mount Buninyong via the Goldfields Trail. (Image Source: CC BY-SA 2.0)


Activity 11.1 – Planning Day Excursions

  • Identify the location of a school you would like to teach at or already work at.
  • Search on Google Maps or similar for the location of the school.
  • Create a list of possible outdoor environments within a 30min drive of your school.
  • Choose three outdoor environments from your list and identify an outdoor activity that you could visit with an OES class the relevant KK/KS you would teach from the study design.


Day Trip – Guest Speaker/External Organisation/Visit

Your teaching of the VCE OES course can be enhanced by providing opportunities for students to hear from or work with a range of people and groups through their course of OES studies. Using other people within your VCE OES course can teach different perspectives and help engage your students in learning by having a variety of voices delivering the course. Guest speakers and groups often come from the ongoing relationships you build in the outdoor environments you visit and teach as part of your VCE OES course. When approaching people and asking them to contribute to your VCE OES course, it is important to consider the benefits to them in doing so. This is particularly important when asking volunteers to be part of your course. Some ideas for guest speakers and organisations  include:

  • Historical Societies
  • Friends of… Groups
  • Regenerative Farmers
  • Trust for Nature Landowners
  • Education Rangers
  • Museums
  • Visitors Centres

11.4 Logbooks for VCE OES

Logbooks are a common tool within the outdoor sector and for outdoor enthusiasts to help document relevant experiences within outdoor activities. In the 2024 onward study design, the VCAA introduced a logbook as a compulsory assessment to help determine a student’s satisfactory completion of units 1-4 of VCE OES. Students are required to complete a logbook that documents all aspects of outdoor experiences that they’re participating in during their VCE OES course. In the next chapter, we discuss the two types of assessment tasks related to the logbook, those assessments tied to AoS 3 in units 1, 2 and 4.

Logbooks as part of the VCE OES curriculum, should be approached by teachers as a holistic tool, not simply an assessment task. Although similar to the highly structured logbooks that many outdoor educators are familiar with the VCE OES logbook should contain additional information that students record during outdoor experiences based on the KK/KS they engage in during an outdoor experience.  When planning and conducting outdoor experiences as part of your VCE OES curriculum, you should consider how students will capture primary and secondary data about their experience within their logbook. Student logbooks should contain a variety of information within their entries. These include:

  • location
  • environment type
  • flora and fauna
  • outdoor activity(ies) undertaken
  • sustainability measures
  • observation of key knowledge relevant to the experience chosen by the teacher
  • observation of key skills.

(Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2023, p. 13. Reproduced with permission.)

Students can use a variety of techniques to make entries in their logbooks. This might include written entries (shorter and longer forms), pictures, drawings, diagrams and other sources. Teachers are responsible for the authentication of the logbook entries. In addition, as they relate directly to the outdoor experiences they participate in and the outdoor environments visited, it is practical that students complete most entries during outdoor experiences. For this reason, hardcopy logbooks are preferred and should be included on booklists. Students can also use their logbooks to collate photos and other material collected on a trip, including handouts and completed worksheets. If you plan for students to collate a large number of documents in their logbook, an A5 display folder may be a good inclusion on your booklist. To assist with authentication, tamper-proof stickers can seal pages once completed. Based on the above activity case study 11.3, a sample student logbook entry is below. This template has been pre-filled with the KK/KS to assist students with their logbook entry.

Case Study 11.5 – Sample Student Logbook Entry

Time and Dates 26/7/24 – 1200-1600
Location Buninyong and Mount Buninyong
Environment Type Visited Urban and Managed Park
Flora and Fauna Identified Koala

Eucalyptus – Native Peppermint

Eucalyptus – Messmate

Acacia – Prickly Mosses

Description of Outdoor Activity Walk for personal fitness from Buninyong Botanical Gardens to Summit via the Goldfields Track
Observations of KK/KS KK: the importance of healthy outdoor environments for individual physical and emotional wellbeing, and for society now and into the future

KS: justify the importance of healthy outdoor environments for individuals and society

– The Goldfields Track heading up Mount Buninyong weaves from urban parkland through farmland then finally to the top of Mount Buninyong an old Volcano.

– The track is steep and challenging, but by undertaking this walk, locals and visitors can participate in active outdoor recreation which has both health and emotional benefits (positives).

– The track is rough in some sections, meaning it is not universally accessible. You also have to cross the Midland Hwy, which could put some off, but this can be done safely in small groups and with patience to wait for gaps in the traffic (negatives).

– The track should be maintained as it helps current and future society stay emotionally and physically healthy (justify).

Minimal Impact Strategies – Stay on the defined path.

– Walk through wet sections rather than widening the path.

– Be aware of Flora/Fauna and minimise disruption.

– Remove all Rubbish.


Goldfields Track at the Gong. Photograph by the author.

Justify the health of your chosen outdoor environment for individuals now and into the future (4 marks). The health of the Goldfields Track at Mount Buninyong is important for the people of Buninyong and its surroundings now and into the future, as it is a key enabler of movement-based activities. By locals participating in walking up this steep track through a range of environments, they will feel more connected to the environment and, in turn, take steps to protect it. For example, through a connection to the place, the local teachers might take their year 6 class walking up the track, which will, in turn, build the future generations’ connection to the place. If the track were to become overgrown with weeds (like blackberries seen on nearby farmland), it might mean that the track is unpassable, leading to people not using it and not developing a connection to the place either now or in the future. Ultimately, the health of this environment will promote a healthy population in Buninyong for generations to come. 

11.5 Advocating for Outdoor Experiences

The VCE OES curriculum requires students to spend time away from school to deliver outdoor experiences. As a teacher, you will sometimes be called upon to provide arguments as to the need for these experiences. Often, the scrutiny from leadership that necessitates these comes from the additional costs (both financial and human) to safely and effectively run your outdoor experiences. As this chapter has shown, there are a variety of local experiences that can help complement your VCE OES program. However, these should be in addition to broader multi-day experiences in various outdoor environments. School leadership are sometimes also concerned about the perceived impact of VCE OES experiences on students’ overall attainment within the VCE. Although no direct research found to date has explicitly studied the impact of students undertaking VCE OES outdoor experiences, several empirical studies, as summarised in the table below, demonstrate positive outcomes for students undertaking outdoor experiences as part of their schooling.


Study Summary
Fägerstam (2014) This longitudinal study examined teachers’ perceptions of an outdoor learning program in a secondary school setting. One finding is that teachers identified following learning outdoors, that students were more motivated, engaged in school and had better communication skills.
Mygind (2007) This study examined students’ physical activities when learning outside. They found that students doubled their physical activity levels on scheduled days of outdoor instruction.
Ritchie (2018) This study found that participation in co-curricular activities as part of secondary schooling positively affected students’ overall academic achievement.

Table 11.2 – Summary of Selected Literature


The letter below is a template you could adopt when writing to your school leadership to advocate for VCE OES’s continuation, expansion or inception. Outdoors Victoria has published this template, the peak body for outdoor education, which can also assist in advocating for your program.


Sample Advocacy Letter

Example advocacy letter to principals – VCE OES programs.

Instructions. Please update all [fields] marked by square brackets.

Dear [Name],

Re: Proposed changes to year VCE OES outdoor experiences

[I/we] write regarding the decision to [reduce outdoor experiences/cease offering VCE OES due to outdoor experiences]. [I/We] take the firm stance that VCE Outdoor and Environmental Studies (OES) should proceed in its entirety for the following reasons.

  • VCE OES is a world-leading curriculum through which students learn about their own and others’ relationships with the outdoors. Through this, they directly engage in contemporary political and global issues to consider how human lifestyles must change for a sustainable future.
  • VCE OES [in our school/in many schools] sees students achieve excellence in the VCE through consistently high study scores.
  • VCE OES is a course that assists to keep many students engaged and connected to schooling. This has been a significant challenge for us and others since returning from the remote learning necessitated by COVID-19.
  • The revised VCE OES curriculum has a renewed and significant focus on teaching about Indigenous peoples’ culture and issues. This should be a matter of priority for all our graduating students to learn about, given the current political issues of reconciliation, closing the gap and the voice.
  • The revised VCE OES study design recommends 25-50 hours of outdoor experience per unit of study, excluding time sleeping or traveling. This roughly equates to 3 days and 2 nights per unit. These figures have been accepted by the VCAA board as they recognise the importance and benefits of outdoor experiences for students.

In addition, access to the types of experiences undertaken through VCE OES should be open to all students, regardless of cultural and socioeconomic background.

  • The Department of Education recognises the significant benefits of outdoor learning. This has been evidenced through the recent $80m investment in the positive start program and policy guidance regarding outdoor education schools.
  • Teacher Time in Lieu should not be a barrier to student learning, given the recent announcement of funding for government schools. In addition, many schools have found amicable and creative solutions when they value and prioritise student learning through the outdoors.
  • Finally, no research or evidence suggests that students undertaking curriculum-based outdoor experiences harms their overall academic achievement or other curriculum-based activities. On the contrary, several publications have linked time out of school experiences to an increase in overall achievement.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the CEO, Andrew Knight and his team at Outdoors Victoria. Andrew would be more than happy to be provided with further information about the benefits of outdoor experiences as part of the VCE OES curriculum. You can contact him via or stay up to date with outdoor education and recreation news by subscribing to Outdoors Victoria’s Newsletter.

We await your timely and hopefully positive response soon,

Regards, [Your teams name(s) here]


Reflection Questions

  • Why should you include outdoor experiences in your VCE OES curriculum?
  • What outdoor environments and types of learning experiences are suitable for the VCE OES curriculum?
  • What would a student include in a logbook?
  • Where could you get support in advocating for your VCE OES program? What arguments might help convince school leaders about the need for your students to be out of school?


Donaldson, G. W., & Donaldson, L. E. (1958). Outdoor Education a Definition. Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, 29(5), 17-63.

Fägerstam, E. (2014). High school teachers’ experience of the educational potential of outdoor teaching and learning. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 14(1), 56-81.

Marsh, C., & Willis, G. (1999). Curriculum: Alternative approaches to ongoing issues (2nd ed.). Merrill.

Mygind, E. (2007). A comparison between children’s physical activity levels at school and learning in an outdoor environment. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 7(2), 161-176.

Priest, S. (1986). Redefining Outdoor Education: A Matter of Many Relationships. The Journal of Environmental Education, 17(3), 13-15.

Quay, J. (2016). Outdoor education and school curriculum distinctiveness: More than content, more than process. Journal of Outdoor & Environmental Education, 19(2), 42-50.

Quay, J., & Jensen, A. (2018). Wild pedagogies and wilding pedagogies: teacher-student-nature centredness and the challenges for teaching. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 21(3), 293-305.

Ritchie, G. M. (2018). The impact of academic co-curricular activity participation on academic achievement: a study of catholic high school seniors [Doctoral Dissertation]. Seton Hall University.

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2023). Outdoor and Environmental Studies – Study Design.

Wattchow, B., & Brown, M. (2011). A pedagogy of place: Outdoor education for a changing world. Monash University Publishing.


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A Teachers Guide to Outdoor Education Curriculum: Victorian Edition Copyright © 2023 by Federation University and Australian Catholic University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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