Travelling with Darwin and Humboldt. A Transdisciplinary Educational Experience

Keywords: transdisciplinarity, outdoor education, emotional learning, scientific travelers, preservice teachers


Aim. This research aims to confirm that transdisciplinary projects can be very adequate to develop content and competencies traditionally assigned to Sciences and Arts in higher education, exploring the possibilities of outdoor education.

Methods. The subjects of the study were one hundred alumni of two different courses “Natural Sciences for Teachers” and “Literary Training for Teachers” at a Spanish university. An educational experience around the phenomenon of scientific travelers was developed, focusing on Charles Darwin and Alexander von Humboldt and the literary genres of travel journals and letters. The main activity contained three phases, including indoor and outdoor education, in which both subjects tackled the same 6 educational topics from a different perspective. After different individual and group activities around those topics, alumni from both subjects merged at a natural environment where a scientific-literary tour took place. At the end of the academic year, an assessment questionnaire with open and closed questions was filled out by all participants.

Results and conclusion. After the analysis of all the collected data, we can deduce that the experience was a success. The students appreciated aspects like the setting in which the experience took place, the possibility of interacting with alumni from different courses and the integration of Sciences and Arts. Thus, we have demonstrated that the same activities can be implemented in prototypical subjects of Sciences and Arts and that outdoor education is an ideal resource to achieve a holistic pedagogy engaging the sensory and emotional facets of learning.

Author Biographies

Antonio Martín Ezpeleta, Language and Literature Didactics Department, University of Valencia Avda. Tarongers nº 4, 46022, Valencia, Spain

Antonio Martín Ezpeleta - he completed his PhD in Hispanic Philology at the University of Zaragoza, and is a Professor in the Department of Language and Literature Didactics at the University of Valencia where he has been a faculty member since 2012. He previously worked at the Universities of Jaén (2010-2011) and Zaragoza (2011-2012). He was a visiting researcher at Saint Andrews University (Scotland, 2005) and Harvard University (the United States, 2008-2010). His research interests include the study and edition of 19th and 20th-century books, as well as the Spanish literary Historiography and the Didactics of Literature. He is the author of four books and more than fifty articles published in collective monographs and specialized journals.

Yolanda Echegoyen-Sanz, Experimental and Social Sciences Didactics Department, University of Valencia Avda. Tarongers nº 4, 46022, Valencia, Spain

Yolanda Echegoyen Sanz - she completed her PhD in Sciences at the University of Zaragoza, and is a Professor in the Department of Experimental and Social Sciences Didactics at the University of Valencia, where she has been a faculty member since 2016. She previously worked at the Spanish National Research Council (2003-2008 and 2015-2016), Fritz Haber Institut der Max Plank Gesellschaft (Germany, 2005), Northeastern University (the United States, 2008-2009), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the United States, 2009-2011) and the University of Zaragoza (2011-2015). Her research interests are related to Environmental Chemistry, Nanotechnology and Experimental Science Didactics. She has published more than forty articles in specialized journals and fifteen book chapters.


Andkjær, S. (2012). A Cultural and Comparative Perspective on Outdoor Education in New Zealand and Friluftsliv in Denmark. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 12(2), 121–136. doi: 10.1080/14729679.2011.643146

Apostel, L. (1972). Interdisciplinarity Problems of Teaching and Research in Universities. Paris: OECD.

Aronson, E. (2002). Building Empathy, Compassion, and Achievement in the Jigsaw Classroom. In: J. Aronson (Ed.), Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education (pp. 209-225). San Diego, CA, US: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/B978-012064455-1/50013-0

Ballantyne, R., Packer, J. (2009). Introducing a Fifth Pedagogy: Experience-Based Strategies for Facilitating Learning in Natural Environments. Environmental Education Research, 15(2), 243-262. doi: 10.1080/13504620802711282

Becker, C., Lauterbach, G., Spengler, S., Dettweiler, U., Mess, F. (2017). Effects of Regular Classes in Outdoor Education Settings: A Systematic Review on Students’ Learning, Social and Health Dimensions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(5), 485. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14050485.

Bentsen, P., Schipperijn, J., Jensen, F.S. (2013). Green Space as Classroom: Outdoor School Teachers’ Use, Preferences and Ecostrategies. Landscape Research, 38(5), 561-575. doi: 10.1080/01426397.2012.690860

Bernstein, J. H. (2015). Transdisciplinarity: A Review of its Origins, Development and Current Issues. Journal of Research Practice, 11(1), R1.

Bølling, M., Otte, C.R., Elsborg, P., Nielsen, G., Bentsen, P. (2018). The Association between Education Outside the Classroom and Students’ School Motivation: Results from a One-School-Year Quasiexperiment. International Journal of Educational Research, 89, 22-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcr.2018.03.004

Bruinsma, M. (2004). Motivation, Cognitive Processing and Achievement in Higher Education. Learning and Instruction, 14(6), 549-568. doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2004.09.001

Chevallard, Y. (1991). La transposición didactica [Didactic transposition]. Buenos Aires: Aique.

Freire, P. (2018). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Giroux, H. (2004). Cultural Studies, Public Pedagogy, and the Responsibility of Intellectuals. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 1(1), 59-79. doi: 10.1080/1479142042000180926.

Higgins, P. (2009). Īnto the Big Wide World: Sustainable Experiential Education for the 21st Century. Journal of Experiential Education, 32(1), 44–60. doi: 10.1177/105382590903200105.

Hill, A. (2013). The Place of Experience and the Experience of Place: Intersections Between Sustainability Education and Outdoor Learning. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 29(1), 18-32. doi: 10.1017/aee.2013.13

Immordino-Yang, M. H., Damasio, A. (2007). We Feel, Therefore We Learn: The Relevance of Affective and Social Neuroscience to Education. Mind, Brain and Education, 1(1), 3-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-228X.2007.00004.x

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Kueffer, C., Forêt, P., Hall, M., Wiedmer, C. (2018). Applying the Environmental Humanities. Gaia, 27(2), 254-256. doi: 10.14512/gaia.27.2.16

Kuyper, H., Werf, M., Lubbers, M. (2010). Motivation, Meta-Cognition and

Self-Regulation as Predictors of Long Term Educational Attainment. Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal on Theory and Practice, 6(3), 181-205. doi: 10.1076/1380-3611%28200009%296%3A3%3B1-A%3BFT181.

Martín-Ezpeleta, A., Echegoyen-Sanz, Y. (2017). La educación científico-literaria. Ecocrítica y sostenibilidad en la novela Sayonara Sushi de Raül Romeva [Scientific-Literary Education. Ecocriticism and Sustainability in the Novel Sayonara Sushi by Raül Romeva], Letras Hispanas, 13, 270-285.

Martín-Ezpeleta, A., Echegoyen-Sanz, Y. (2018). Environmental Humanities in Pre-Service Teachers’ Education. Journal of Education Culture and Society, 9(2), 52-64. doi: 10.15503jecs20182.52.64

Meyer, D. K., Turner, J.C. (2002). Discovering Emotion in Classroom Motivation Research. Educational Psychologist, 37(2), 107-114. doi: 10.1207/S15326985EP3702_5

Nicolescu, B. (2002). Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity. New York: State University of New York Press.

O'Connell, T., Potter, T., Curthoys, L., Dyment, J., Cuthbertson, B. (2005). A Call for Sustainability Education in Post-Secondary Outdoor Recreation Programs. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 6(1), 81–94. doi: 10.1108/14676370510573159

Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., Tits, W., Perry R.P. (2002). Academic Emotions in Students’ Self-Regulated Learning and Achievement: a Program of Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Educational Psychologist, 37(2), 91-105. doi: 10.1207/S15326985EP3702_4

Symeonidis, V., Schwarz, J. F. (2016). Phenomenon-Based Teaching and Learning Through the Pedagogical Lenses of Phenomenology: The Recent Curriculum Reform in Finland. Forum Oświatowe, 28(2), 31-47. doi: 10.1136/emj.2003.012435.

Thompson Klein, J. (2004). Prospects for Transdisciplinarity. Futures, 36(4), 515-526. doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2003.10.007.

Ull, À., Piñero, A., Martínez Agut, M. P., Aznar Minguet, P. (2014). Preconcepciones y actitudes del profesorado de Magisterio ante la incorporación en su docencia de competencias para la sostenibilidad [Preconcepcions and Attitudes of Teachers of Teaching School about Incorporated Sustainability Competences in their Teaching]. Enseñanza de las Ciencias, 32(2), 91-112. doi:10.5565/rev/ensciencias.904.

Vilches Peña, A., Gil Pérez, D. (2015). Ciencia de la Sostenibilidad: Una nueva disciplina o un nuevo enfoque para todas las disciplinas? [Sustainability Science. A New Discipline or a New Aproach for all Disciplines?]. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación, 69(1), 39-60. doi: 10.35362/rie691152.

Waite, S. (2011). Teaching and Learning Outside the Classroom: Personal Values, Alternative Pedagogies and Standards. Education 3–13, 39(1), 65–82. doi: 10.1080/03004270903206141.

Waite, S., Bølling, M., Bentsen, P. (2016). Comparing Apples and Pears? A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Forms of Outdoor Learning through Comparison of English Forest Schools and Danish Udeskole. Environmental Education Research, 22(6), 868-892, doi: 10.1080/13504622.2015.1075193.

Wolters, C. A, Pintrich, P. R. (1998). Contextual Differences in Student Motivation and Self-Regulated Learning in Mathematics, English, and Social Studies classrooms. Instructional-Science, 26 (1,2), 27-47. doi: 10.1023/A:1003035929216.

How to Cite
Martín Ezpeleta, A., & Echegoyen-Sanz, Y. (2019). Travelling with Darwin and Humboldt. A Transdisciplinary Educational Experience. Journal of Education Culture and Society, 10(2), 111-125.