Today is a little bit more personal than usual. It is all about why I love outdoor learning. Why, when it is lashing on rain and blowing a hoolie do I still smile when pulling on my outdoor gear and love what I do? Why have I kept going, despite it almost being a year since we could run our outdoor sessions? What keeps me motivated to keep doing this?
I will be honest and say it took me a long time and a lot of work with my mentor to properly understand my why. And, when I did realise it and tell friends and family, they already knew. It was no surprise.
My why is simple, I do all this because I love to empower people. I love to see them grow and develop. I love being part of that journey. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I am making a difference.
Thinking back about some of the times we have done this there are a few that spring to mind.
There was a mum who come along to our outdoor sessions. It was pretty obvious that her and her child were new to the outdoors, their new clothing was spotless. It was a muddy, wet and miserable day. I thought from the off that we may lose them part way through the session. But I was wrong. The end of the session came and both mum and daughter were covered in mud and had the biggest smiles on their faces!
Mum explained that she hadn’t spent much time outdoors as a child and didn’t feel confident taking her child out, she just wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was. But, she kept coming back. We kept helping her understand there was no right or wrong. As long as you are having fun and looking after nature then she could just relax and enjoy. I hear from them now and again and they have kept heading outdoors, mum has confidence and her daughter is experiencing things she didn’t. Though they are still looking forward to getting back to our sessions when we can run them!
Then there was a teacher I worked with. She was a bit like me when I was a teacher. Pencil skirts and high heels. Not the teacher you would imagine heading out into the playground or woods and getting mucky. But, through working together we built her confidence. She learned a muddy day is a fun day. The cool thing here, she is now the outdoor lead at her school helping others fall in love with outdoor learning.
Of course, we cannot forget the group of high school boys we worked with. They were on the cusp of expulsion. They were disengaged with school and very unhappy there. But, we built a 6 week programme for these boys, taking them outdoor every week. Building up their communication and team work skills. Eventually giving them the independence to plan a full day in the woods, what they would cook on the fire they built and maintained, the activities they would do, including whittling and the timings for it all. They were amazing. A year on and each of them is still in school and engaging.
Outdoor learning is so much more than just taking a lesson outdoors or enjoying an activity in the woods.
It can empower people and change lives.
And that, that is my why.