Page: 271-289 Author: Smetáčková, I., Viktorova, I. Key words: outdoor school, school camp, school socialization, family socialization, negotiation between family and school
What is known as „outdoor school“, a kind of school camp, is a stable element in Czech schools, but during the last twenty years it has changed significantly. These changes may be seen as symptoms of global shifts in the educational system and its position in society.
The article presents the results of a case study of outdoor school in two classes of eight graders at one elementary school in Prague. The goal of the case study was to find out (1) what conceptions of outdoor school pupils, teachers, parents and external instructors have (2) what their attitudes to-ward the phenomena of outdoor school are, (3) what their specific experiences are, and (4) what criteria for evaluation they use for
particular events. Attention was paid mainly to the significance of outdoor school for different participants (this means children, their parents, teachers), and to its impact on relationships between them. The description of these aspects enables us to consider the nature of school socialisation and its relation to family socialisation.
The study employed various different methods of data-collection, including individual interview, group interview, ob-servation, questionnaire, essay etc. Data were gathered from different groups of participants (pupils, their parents, teachers and instructors) during three periods: long-term preparation, actual running and follow-up impressions. The methods of data processing were partly quantitative but qualitative methods predominated. For thematic analysis open, selective and axial coding were adopted and some inspiration taken from discourse analysis.
The perspectives of the different groups of participants differed considerably, and this was conditioned by their specific location in the schooling process (school versus family including children and parents) and by their generations (children versus adults including teachers and parents). The complex of locations forms the particular approaches to the historical, legislative, group-building and identity-building context of outdoor school. All participants form their own conception of outdoor school from their own locations, which provide their set of criteria for evaluation of their particular experience.
In the children‘s conception of outdoor school the following features are to the fore: how entertaining the programme is, the quality of relationships with peers and the relaxation of ordinary school discipline and academic demands. The parents‘ conception of outdoor school is derived from their own earlier experiences as children (which does not correspond to the current situation) combined with concern for their own child, regarded as unique. Parents want the same kind of things from outdoor school as chil-dren do (they want the children to be happy), but insist on conditions of safety. Parents‘ have long-term perspectives defined by individual benefits for their child (and thus for the family which can fulfill the „family story“). Teachers put the emphasis on the contributions of outdoor school for a better social climate in peer group and for better understanding between teachers and pupils. In addition, the safety factor is prominent in teachers‘ conceptions of outdoor school, but their concern is global group safety rather than just individual safety as is the case with parents. Teachers operate in short-term perspective and in a space defined by efforts to legitimise the school and thus themselves as representatives of school.
A major innovation in the organisation of outdoor school happened in the course of our case study. A commercial agency was hired by the school involved. The agency organised transportation, accommodation, supervision and all leisure time activities. With the arrival of the the commercial agency the former fragile balance of interests and perspectives between teachers, children and parents changed dramatically. New possibilities for coalitions arose. The external instructors who were nice young people tended to be closer to the pupils than the teacher, and this then heightened the tensions of persepctive between pupils and teachers that had earlier diminished during outdoor schools organised without an agency (with later benefits in school). The space for negotiation between family and school changed too. The agency assumes part of the responsibility and then becomes a new actor in the complicated net of relations. The effect is to transform the effects of outdoor schools in relation to the goals regarded as important by participants. First and foremost, better understanding between teachers and pupils is reduced because the children spend most of their time with instructors not with teachers. The relationship between teachers and parents is shifted because there is reduction of topics they can speak about together and because children back at home talk about instructors (they are increasingly critical of teachers). Thus the commercial agency might be used as a lens to understand the actual state of the school and family socialization and the role of pupils in both.
To summarise: the study shows several changes in outdoor school in areas where major shifts have been occuring with an impact on the socialisation process. These areas are relations between family and school, children‘s personal development and emancipation from family, the enlargement of children‘s experiences and relationships in peer groups, and relationships between pupils and teachers.