Outings to the beach. Film festivals and volleyball. Needlepoint, sing alongs and tennis. Arts and crafts. Square dancing. Walking in the woods and playing in the parks.

These and similar activities are on their way to becoming an integral partof of the academic curriculum here at Salisbury State College, a school of 3,200 men and women 120 miles southeast of Washington on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Seriously.

Beginning this semester, Salisbury State will offer degrees in "leisure studies" - an effort to help meet some of the social demands of an era when more and more Americans find themselves with more and more free time.

At the outset, the leisure studies program here is small and it is one of relatively few in the country.

But it does reflect a growing preoccuption with the study of leisure at American colleges and universities.

Under the leadership of Texas A&M, a group of colleges will soon begin publication of a quarterly academic journal called Leisure Sciences.

At the University of Maryland in College Park, graduate and undergraduate students are taking an experimental course called "leisure counseling." The University of South Florida in Tampa began offering a degree in leisure studies five years ago and throughout the vast network of schools that comprises the City University of New York, students are taking a variety of courses dealing with leisure.

Two years ago the University II-Hooks organised a department of leisure studies and now it offers a Ph.D. program in that field.

"No question about it. Leisure is becoming a solid academic discipline with a strong base in research," says John F. Kelly, associate professor in the Illinois leisure studies department.

At Salisbury, as at most other places, the leisure studies program comes in response "to the reality that the allocation of time has changed dramatically in the last two decades," according to sociology professor Philip Bosserman.

"We're getting longer weekends, longer vacations and a shorter working life," said Bosserman, one of the organizers of Salisbury's leisure studies program.

"People are retiring earlier and they are entering the work force later. The sabbatical is becoming very popular in many fields of work. We feel that this is something that needs the attention of academic institutions."

Goals of the leisure studies program are twofold, Bosserman said. One is to train students for jobs in the expanding leisure industry - parks and resort administration, sales of leisure equipment, tourism and the like.

The second, he added, "is to sensitize students to the range of options that leisure time offers."

"The students who come here are going to be living in an age when there will be large blocks of leisure time in their lives. How they spend it can be just as important as the time they spend at work or in a professional career."

"Many people are ill-prepared for leisure time," says Gerald Fain, who teaches the course in leisure counseling at the University of Maryland.

"With modern technology, our existence needs can be met fairly easily and it would be possible to work very little. But many people are afraid to work very little. Their identity and self-worth are all tied up in their job experience."

The point of leisure counseling, Fain says, is to "improve the quality of life from the nonwork experience."

"Students are graduating today with a low level of competence in terms of planning for leisure time. For the most part, they have not developed the lifetime kinds of leisure skills that will provide them with a great deal of happiness."

Such skills, Fain went on, could involve proficiency in a sport, for example, or playing a musical instrument.

At Salisbury, about 100 students have expressed an interest in signing up for the leisure studies program, which includes a curriculum of four basic courses in leisure, related courses in other fields and practical experience.

The practical experience, Bosserman envisions, would involve employment with a public or private agency that provides leisure services, the park services, say, or a recreation association of a large company. Specific assignments could include arranging beach outings, films festivals or arts and crafts activities.

Supplementing the four basic leisure courses would be such related courses as recreation planning and the geography of sport from the geography department, man and search for values from the philosophy department and environment management and law from the political science department.

The four basic courses include an introductory course called leisure in society, which amounts to a broad examination of leisure-related issues in an advanced industrial society. Students will also study leisure in America in comparison with other industrialized societies and with societies of history.

Then they will go on to study theories and policies of leisure, which includes looking at how government agencies such as departments of parks and recreation or the National Park Service plan for the consumptionof leisure time.

There is a course dealing with the delivery of leisure services - "who provides leisure services? How? To whom are they prosided? What comes from the public sector and what comes from the private sector?" Bosserman said.

And finally, they have designed a course dealing with leisure as it applies to special populations, children, old people, woman, middle-aged people and minorities.

"You might ask, 'Why do this at a tiny little place like Salisbury State?'" Bosserman said, "but actually this is an ideal place for something like this."

"It makes good sense when you think of where we are, 30 miles from Ocean City and Assateague Seashore, within easy striking distance of the major metropolitan centers - Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Norfolk . . ."

"This Eastern Shore is kind of a leisure paradise for 8 months of the year, fishing, hunting, camping, swimming . . . we see this as a rich natural laboratory where our students can learn and we can do research."

Five broad areas of leisure activity - physical, intellectual, social, artistic and practical leisure - will be studied in the Salisbury program, Bosserman said.

Physical would include sports, either as a participant or a spectator, intellectual would cover such areas as education and reading; artistic could be either playing a violin or going to an art galiery; social could include such things as club membership and practical lesiure would include such activities as gardening or home winemaking.

Additionally, said Bosserman, "we'll study the various cults that have grown up around certain types of leisure activities: Surfing motorcycling . . ."

"I look for this to become one of the very exciting areas for our students," said Bosserman, adding that he's aware that there's an underlying conflict between the wholemotion of leisure studies and the traditional American work ethic.

"There has been this notion that there is somehow something wrong with leisure, that it is an-American. All we're trying to do is help people spend their time in a way that will enhance their lives."

His own leisure activity, Bosserman said, consists of walking 10 miles every day, fishing and camping on the Eastern Shore and listening to classical music and jazz.

"When I walk, it gives me time to think," Bosserman said. "Of course what I usually think about is my work."