Outdoor Ed

OUTDOOR ED: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Outdoor Education

As part of the Outdoor Education curriculum we cover Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. More specifically ‘the relationship between physiological and safety needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy) and personal preparation for outdoor experiences’. Just a few lesson resource ideas for this topic:


Test understanding:

  • Identify levels:  Students to line up in a line. Teacher to call out a number from 1 – 6. Students to IDENTIFY the level associated with that number. To increase difficulty, do small math sums (ie. 5 – 1 = 4 = Esteem). This worked extremely well and became a quick ‘starter game’ for lessons. To make it even harder, we had students verse each other so it’s the first to say the correct answer.
  • Associate key words: As per above activity but instead of calling out a number, teacher calls out the name of a level and student has to respond with a key word relevant to that level
    • Physiological = Survival, basic needs.
    • Safety = Physical, economical, emotional, security,  free from threats.
    • Social = Sense of belonging, affirmation with a group, part of a group, relationships
    • Esteem = Held in esteem, Internal, self respect, confidence, external, respect, status, recognition
    • Self Actualization = Self-fulfillment, innovation, creativity, personal potential.
    • Transcendence = Relationships with the unknown, Help others achieve their potential.
  • Associate a feeling: Have students try to connect a feeling to each level
    • Physiological = tired, hungry, cold, exhausted
    • Safety = scared, threatened, fearful, bullied,
    • Social = unaccepted, unloved, excluded, disengaged
    • Esteem = incapable, useless, disrespected, lacking confidence, low self esteem
  • Connect examples of application: Have students connect the following planning examples to each level
    • Presenting information about appropriate clothing and equipment (1)
    • Providing adequate shelter (tents) and alternatives for poor weather  (1)
    • Plan for extra water for re-supply or in case of emergency (1)
    • Giving information about the area, route, campsites, facilities and emergency plans (2)
    • Provide alternative levels of participation to cater for participants who are fearful (2)
    • Emergency procedures organized and documented (2)
    • Allowing participants to choose their tent or cooking buddy (3)
    • Creating opportunities for group interaction (3)
    • Providing an atmosphere for sharing information and stories (ie, cooking circle) (3)
    • Doing activities with others, operating mainly as a group (3)
    • Providing activities with varying levels of challenge to enable success (4)
    • Allowing challenge by choice (4)
    • Establishing norms/rules during group activities that encourage inclusive and supportive atmosphere (eg no put downs) (4)
    • Planning opportunities for students to reflect on and evaluate their own performance (e.g. journals) (5)
    • Evaluating strengths and weaknesses setting goals and identifying steps to improve (5)
    • Providing further opportunities to demonstrate change or personal growth (eg leading other less experienced groups) (5)
    • Offering information on the next step in skill development, as well as opportunities for further experience and training (5)

Apply understanding to OE context:

  • Debate “Ultimately, the success of the hierarchy comes down to the leader (Educating the group, being knowledgeable, creating positive group atmosphere, building positive group relationships) vs Ultimately, the success of the hierarchy comes down to the individual (Taking responsibility, being open, participating, being positive). Have students consider examples of what the individual can prepare and plan for (what levels and how) and examples of what the leader has to plan and prepare for (what levels and how)”
  • Explain how Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs influenced decisions made during planning and activity selection of our last expedition
  • Explain how you would use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to plan an overnight expedition for a group of novice Year 9 Outdoor Education students.
  • From your outdoor experiences, give an example of how a ‘physiological need’, ‘safety need’, ‘belonging need’ and ‘esteem need’ may have prevented progression to a higher order need


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