Beyond Meaningless Leisure: John Dewey's Influence on Eastern Oregon University's Outdoor Program


  • Jerry Isaak Eastern Oregon University


outdoor education, higher education, John Dewey, wildlife tracking, Eastern Oregon University


This paper presents the Eastern Oregon University Outdoor Program's application of John Dewey's philosophy of leisure to outdoor education and recreation programming. Central to Dewey's philosophy of leisure is his aversion to a socially constructed dichotomy between work and play. In the case of outdoor education and recreation programs within higher education, the dichotomy can often appear between students' academic studies and recreation (which may include curricular or co-curricular outdoor program courses and outings). The Eastern Oregon University Outdoor Program offers a Winter Wildlife Tracking Program that is grounded in Dewey's philosophy of integrated work and play, and is designed to engage participants in developing higher order and critical thinking skills. These critical thinking skills are facilitated through the application of winter backcountry recreation skills as well as knowledge of local ecology and animal tracking. The paper is presented not as a demonstration of “what works†or what should take place in other contexts, but is rather is intended to encourage new ways of thinking about the practice of outdoor adventure education and recreation within higher education.




Research Note