Social and Cultural EnACTment of future selves: Learning in the outdoors with acceptance commitment therapy and the arts

Kumara Ward, Son Truong, Tonia Gray

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Learning in the outdoors supports physical, emotional, social and cognitive development and the ecopsychological benefits of spending time in nature and ‘connecting to place’ are well established (Gray & Birrell, 2015; Truong et. al, 2018). Implementing and researching environmental education through the arts is also an area that is gaining momentum for interacting with and interpreting the natural world (Ward, 2016).

This session highlights the interdisciplinary research conducted and the inherent synergies between outdoor learning, psychological well-being and arts-based pedagogies. The study included the development of an outdoor learning program for 9-12 year-old children with behavioural challenges, with the aim of developing positive individual and collective future narratives. The program incorporated principles of Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) with outdoor learning and multiple arts experiences as an integral part of every session. The ACT component engaged children in developing psychological flexibility through acceptance, mindfulness, cognitive diffusion, values, and committed action. Participant engagement was uniquely enhanced through learning in urban outdoor green spaces and the integration of creative arts pedagogies.

Data collection included surveys, focus groups, creative artefacts, student and teacher interviews and researcher observations. It concluded with a place-based arts experience with a local Aboriginal elder that creatively portrayed children living a valued life in community and place and featured mindfulness, self-reflection, ritual and storytelling and positive self-narratives. This session will focus on the interdisciplinary program and experiences, and the extent to which they assisted children to explore values, commitment to action, and ways of connecting to self, place and others.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022
Event9th International Outdoor Educational Research Conference - University of Cumbria, Ambleside, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Jul 202225 Jul 2022
Conference number: 9th


Conference9th International Outdoor Educational Research Conference
Abbreviated titleIOeRC
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Outdoor Education
  • Art-based Pedagogy
  • Acceptance Commitment Therapy


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