Wild Pedagogy in Pathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education

 In Wild Pedagogy

Wild pedagogy is an idea: We can do education better. Education can be more place-responsive, in local or remote “wild” places. We need to recover wildness in our lives. Wild in a place denotes a self-willed integrity to exist and evolve in a healthy, ecologically sound manner. Wild in a person denotes a self-determined (not determined) quality with freedom to be self-determined (again not determined), with purpose and capacity to develop and test one’s curiosity and powers for self and community.

Educators can help learners self-discover. Learning can and should often be student-centred with authentic (real world) practices in socio-ecologically conscious communities in evolving learners advancing who they are becoming. There will be uncertainty involved, along with some mastery of skills and knowledge. Wild pedagogy has a mandate to consciously change this world for the better. This will involve learning from the land and all human and more-than-human beings that inhabit places; it will involve cultivating eco/social justice with cultural mindedness that challenges personal and community practices and values. We must change who we are on the Earth. Does it not sound inversely radical and unreasonable to stay the course of the cultural status quo? Wild pedagogy infers that society would be more a function of education than the status quo of education being a function of society.

Wild pedagogy involves challenging dominant cultural notions of control – of each other, nature, education and learning. It rests on the premise that an important part of education can involve intentional activities that provide a fertile field for personal and purposeful experiences without controlling the outcomes. The work of wild pedagogy will validate, even restore, the professional teacher while at the same time blur the teacher-student separation relationship towards one of a shared enterprise – a relation of co-learners with real world issues relevant to one’s life. A big part of this restoration of the teacher’s role in society is to allow teachers the freedom to generate creative spaces for students – and themselves – as learners where personal knowing is honoured.

The papers in this issue of Pathways are arisings and responses to the Wild Pedagogies Floating Colloquium on the Yukon River in 2014. This canoe travelling gathering of like-minded folks proved a sound way to bring together those with specific interests in outdoor, experiential, environmental and art education to discuss our practice and angst as educators while learning from and with the wild place that is the Yukon River.

Students of wild pedagogy would celebrate the joy of learning – a most natural instinct. It is the edgy and messy work, with rewards in the rich complexity of places that we can see as wild and in considering what it is to dwell with good manners in this place. Carl Rogers once said, “Since it’s my experience that only real learning is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning, I won’t try to teach you anything. It is my job instead to create an atmosphere where you can teach yourself” (Jensen, 2004, p.20).

We believe many people get the above sentiment, but find it difficult to work from Rogers’ grounding. Many who might call themselves wild pedagogues come to this fundamental understanding early, and then find they have to negotiate against the grain of conventional schooling bent on something more controlling, authoritative (teacher-oriented) and coercive (standardized operational and evaluative procedures). Wild pedagogy as adventurous learning necessarily involves seeking out the wild in places, education and ourselves.


Jickling, B., Jensen, A., Blenkinsop, S., Morese, M., Knowlton Cockett, P. & Henderson, B. (2016). Wild pedagogies: Tetrahedron dialogues. Sunshine Coast, BC: Publisher.
Jensen, D. (2004). Walking on water: Reading, writing, and revolution. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.

Bob Henderson and
Polly Knowlton Cockett, Guest Editor

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