This study explored how (learning) experiences offered through outdoor experiential programmes, particularly the youth care farm approach, may (or may not) enhance young peoples' ability to recognise and then utilise available resources for personal growth, protection and health promotion. A total of 11 youngsters were asked to look back on their half-year stay on a care farm in the Netherlands, by using semi-structured interviews to elicit their experiences from a salutogenic perspective. Analysis revealed that several resources (and the interaction of these resources) on the youth care farm worked well for the youngsters; contributed to their personal development and to their sense of coherence: the feeling that the world is or can be meaningful, comprehensible and manageable, associated with positive outcome in endeavours linked to improving health and well-being. In general, the attitude of the farmer, working with animals, the informal atmosphere and being temporarily cut-off from the former environment were elements most positively highlighted by the youngsters. The farm environment was mentioned as calming, however, as structuring as well. The strength of the programme as an experiential learning opportunity appears to be the diversity and richness of resources (and stressors!) available to the participants. This creates various opportunities for learning: making sense, interpreting and giving meaning to resources and stressors. Further research into the impact of this kind of programmes, compared to more 'traditional' programmes, especially on the ability of youngsters to use resources to finish school, find employment and develop better relationships with their parents is recommended.
- outdoor experiential learning
- care farms
- behavioural problems