Many people will know The Killorglin Outdoor Education and Training Campus as Cappanalea Outdoor Education and Training Centre, or even more recently as The National Centre for Outdoor Education & Training. However, in September 2020, the centre became the fifth campus of Kerry College as part of the Kerry Education and Training Board’s (Kerry ETB) new integrated model for Further Education and Training (FET). This integrated model, the first of its kind in Ireland saw the amalgamation of all specific skill, community training, traineeships, apprenticeships and post-leaving certificate programmes available in Kerry delivered through one unified and single entity, Kerry College. An integrated model such as this, allows an ETB to meet the needs of learners across their entire county and aids in the promotion and creation of a society of lifelong learning “so that all who live there have access to the education and training required to fulfil their potential and to meet their personal, social, cultural, economic and civic needs” (Kerry Education & Training Board, 2018, p. 12). With one hundred and eighty courses available across five campuses, Kerry College is hoping to illustrate a model of best practice for the concept of the “FET College of the Future” (SOLAS, 2020) as envisioned by SOLAS in its National FET strategy 2020-24 for other ETB’s to mirror.
These changes became a motivation to reorient our service outputs and reconceptualise our pedagogical aims. Previously, our main source of income came from a clientele which predominantly consisted of primary and secondary school students availing of a selection of school tours focused on recreational outdoor activities. Now, however, we are fully funded through the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to deliver nationally recognised educational programmes to adults across a variety of courses, thus, a shift in pedagogical strategies is required. One obvious example of this is understanding the way in which people learn. For instance, we know that adults learn differently to young people (Knowles, 1984), therefore, the way in which we teach and deliver our lessons and training needs to shift from a controlled and predictable environment (Pierce, 2021) to a more autonomous and inclusive structure. This will be important for us and our philosophical shift because “in order for students to engage deeply in learning, for their sake, not ours, they need opportunities for ownership and responsibility” (Fraser, 2008, p. 9). These pedagogical shifts in Ireland’s outdoor educational practices are essential if we are to respond to the needs of our learners today (Glancy, 2020) and align with the Future of FET’s three main pillars. These core pillars revolve around building skills, fostering inclusion and facilitating pathways for all learners engaged in our programmes.
In 2017, I undertook research as part of my Masters that exposed some confusions between the theoretical underpinnings of outdoor education practices and the facilitation of these experiences such as a lack of authentic autonomy provided for learners in outdoor experiential contexts. More recently, in 2021 brought with it the publication of PhD research that examined and interrogated the practices of outdoor education and training centres (Pierce, 2021).
The innovation and bravery of Kerry ETB supports us in the Killorglin Campus to examine these recommendations from research and take action to see them applied to practice.
As a staff team of outdoor educators, we need to understand that our content knowledge and the pedagogical strategies we use to teach is extremely important, therefore, we need to remain informed on
effective educational developments (Hill & Zinmeister, 2012). This will help guide our practices away from what Brown (2010) describes as the ‘Achilles heel’ in outdoor education and avoid making unsubstantiated claims and assumptions about our programmes. We strive to provide authentic educational experiences that commit to reflective practices in a shared and open workspace.
The centre, which is also tasked with overseeing a provision of services in the Killarney National Park Education Centre (KNPEC), is now responsible for the delivery of all outdoor and environmental
education and training FET courses in Kerry College. In addition to these courses, a Wellbeing programme for all FET learners is provided through the campus, as well as an Environmental Education service for the public from KNPEC and for a transitional period, a small schools programme for the primary and post primary schools of County Kerry.
This is an ambitious departure from previous practice however I am very fortunate to have joined a team of dedicated and professional outdoor educators. The staff team in Killorglin Campus are passionate about working with learners outside and connecting them to their natural surroundings. Their passion and expertise will hopefully create a ripple effect which will then get passed on to our learners and so on to their learners in the future. Thankfully, staff at the centres are willing to engage in courageous conversations that tackle the challenges of revising and adapting teaching and learning strategies in such a fundamental shift in practices for our courses.
Courses available to learners on our campus offer opportunities for employment in the broad outdoor and environmental sector. Our courses provide clear routes to employment, further study and university progression. Currently, we deliver a QQI Level 5 Ecology and Practical Fieldwork (Applied Ecology) course in Ireland’s premier Killarney National Park. This is a highly practical course focused on the key skills and knowledge needed to carry out a range of ecological field survey methods. Learners will be able to demonstrate strategies and practices to help foster a more environmentally-friendly society.
We also deliver a one-year traineeship in outdoor activity instruction which is an ideal starting point for anyone who is interested in developing a career in the outdoor sector. A pathway has been
created from the outdoor activity instructor course to our QQI Level 6 advanced outdoor activity instructor programme which supports learners in gaining up to eight national governing body awards for
employment. Again, this is the perfect programme for anyone who is interested in developing a career in the outdoor sector or thinking of progressing on to Higher Education. Additionally, we deliver a scuba
diving instructor course which is internationally recognised by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Finally, we deliver a surf instructor and beach lifeguard training course which
helps our learners develop knowledge, skills, competencies and recognised qualifications in surfing, lifeguarding, first aid and instructing with the view of becoming a surf instructor or beach
lifeguard. All our courses at Kerry College are fully funded and there are no application fees, tuition fees, examination fees or certification fees. All top of the range equipment to engage in our courses is
provided for the learner as we believe that this equips the learner best for success in the sector. The learner becomes the owner of much of the personal protective equipment, such as harness, helmet, wetsuit and buoyancy aid upon successful completion of their course to ensure they are equipped to join the workforce directly following achievement.
The Killorglin campus provides a bespoke ‘Connect Outdoors’ well-being service for all FET students across Kerry College. The programme is grounded in theory and is evaluated with relevant metrics to improve it. Evidence on promoting well-being indicates how incorporating the following five actions; Connect, Be active, Take notice, Keep learning and Give are all important components for well-being (Aked, Marks, Cordon, Thompson, 2008). Our ‘Connect Outdoors’ offers a participant the opportunity to slow down and journey through nature while connecting in the five ways to well-being. These well-being days are also used as an opportunity for our tutors to share with participants, Kerry College’s emotional and psychological support services available to them.
Finally, with a supportive staff team, I am so excited and genuinely look forward to being a part of such a dynamic change in how we deliver outdoor and environmental education in Kerry. The only constant is change, and so long as we are changing, we are improving.
Aked, J., Marks, N., Cordon, C. & Thompson, S. (2008). Five ways to wellbeing: A report presented to the Foresight Project on communicating the evidence base for improving people’s well-being, New Economics Foundation. Retrieved from: https://b.3cdn.net/nefoundation/8984c5089d5c2285ee_t4m6bhqq5.pdf
Brown, M. (2010). Transfer : outdoor adventure education’s Achilles heel? Changing participation as a viable option. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 14(1), 13–22.
Education and Training Boards Ireland. (2022). ETB Outdoor Education and Training Provision A strategic framework for the sector 2021 – 2023.
Retrieved from: https://www.etbi.ie/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/FET-Outdoor-Education-Training-12.11.pdf?x50572
Fraser, D. (2008). Developing classroom culture: Creating a climate for learning. In C. McGee & D. Fraser (eds), The Professional Practice of Teaching (pp. 1 – 16). Melbourne: Cengage Glancy, T. (2020). Bringing stories to life: An autoethnographic and historic review of using risk-based pedagogies in outdoor education in Ireland (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Kerry Education & Training Board. (2018). Kerry Education & Training Board Education & Training Strategy 2018-2022. Retrieved from:
Knowles, M. (1984). Andragogy in action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pierce, J. (2021). Nature of public provision outdoor education in the Republic of Ireland: an ethno-case study of four outdoor education and training centres. The University of Edinburgh.
SOLAS. (2020). Future FET: Transforming Learning. The National Further Education and Training (FET) Strategy. Retrieved from: https://www.solas.ie/f/70398/x/64d0718c9e/solas_fet_strategy_web.pdf
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